– Amanda Ketchledge
Reno, NV- On July 28, the Truckee Meadows Water Authority asked their customers to cut back on outdoor water usage by 10 percent.
This is the first time in 20 years the water authority has asked for voluntary cuts. In 1994, reductions were implemented and reserves were tapped. The goal this year is to save enough water to keep Independence Reservoir full for 2015.
“We have adequate drought reserves and if for some reason or the other we don’t get the 10 percent we’re looking for, we still have more than enough water to get through this summer and next year,” said Bill Hauck, a hydrologist at TMWA.
Reducing water usage by 10 percent could mean saving about two thousand-acre feet of water. An acre-foot of water is about 326,000 gallons, which is more or less the normal amount of water two typical families would use in a year.
Other states experiencing harsh drought conditions are also calling for drastic action. In California, law enforcement and water agencies have imposed a maximum $500 fine for residents overwatering. In January, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency. A recent survey shows Californians at the time only cut back by five percent instead of the 20 percent requested. Restrictions are now mandatory and hefty fines are being issued, but will Nevada face the same fate as California?
“Starting next week, we’re going to be watching (water usage) a little bit more closely for sure,” said Hauck. “We want people to continue to do the right thing and we sure don’t want to see water running down the street.”
TMWA says that while things aren’t as bad as California, they are taking water restrictions more seriously than in past years. The water authority employs water cops who are paid to patrol the community and follow up on tips on who might be using too much water.
“Sometimes I don’t think people realize that their sprinklers are over spraying as much as they are,” said Kirsten Powers, a homeowner in Reno. “I think that if it was brought to their attention and then they could do something to fix it.”
A number of residents have already made changes, and if necessary, many said they would support mandatory cutbacks in the future.
“It really disturbs me when I walk around Reno and I see water spraying all over the sidewalk, running down the curb, and completely wasted,” said Powers.
Powers has a yard full of grass. She and her husband put in a drip system, adjusted watering times, reducing the amount of water they use. Powers says if things were to get worse, she would support having more enforcement for water wasters.
While water timers and drip systems do help, some residents are making more radical decisions to save water. Instead of keeping a lush green yard, people are doing xeriscaping, a popular trend in the arid west.
“It wasn’t so much a pain (for) the water bill, but it just seemed really irresponsible to have that much water being wasted,” said Garrett Taylor, a resident in north Reno.
Xeriscaping can cut a homeowner’s water bill by half. With a low maintenance landscape, you don’t have to mow it, trim it, or remember to water it. It just takes care of itself.
“People are looking for more drought tolerant plants,” said Samantha Stremmel, owner of Sierra Water Gardens in downtown Reno.
She says customers want to see different alternatives for their landscapes this summer; plants that require low watering and full sun. Succulents, agave trees, and decorative pieces such as water bowls that circulate water are popular this summer.
“You can still garden in Reno,” said Stremmel. “It might take a little extra effort, working a little harder, experimenting, seeing what works and doesn’t, but you can still have a nice lush garden.”
For more information on living with drought, please visit the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension website: http://www.unce.unr.edu/programs/sites/drought/.