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Water conservation plan for commercial development moves forward

A water conservation plan for commercial development from the Basin 160 Groundwater Management Plan is on the way to the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission.

The Nye County Water District Governing Board on Tuesday voted to move forward with the water conservation plan that outlines landscaping, turf and watering restrictions for new construction in Pahrump.

“It’s a journey of 1,000 miles. This is the first step,” WDGB Contractor Oz Wichman said.

The plan includes purpose, goals, implementation approach and recommendations for landscaping and turf restrictions for new construction, new water features, application to water landscaping, recommendations for watering schedules and restrictions, low fixtures for new construction, incentives, prohibited plants and enforcement. The plan also presents a notion of impact to overall basin health.

“As presented, it clearly points to a number of items that need to be budgeted in the future, they need more consideration, they need grounding. The plan states that. But there are some hard facts and figures about turf restrictions for new construction and these sorts of things,” Wichman said.

According to an exerpt from the Basin 162 Groundwater Management Plan, grass turf consumes 41 gallons of water per square foot per year which equals to 5.5 acre feet annually.

If new construction restrictions are implemented, 1,500 square feet would be the maximum turf allowed for any single-family residence. The yearly water usage of that 1,500 square feet is equivalent to 169 gallons per day, the documents said.

Turf in the front yard area is prohibited and turf shall be at least three feet from all buildings, structures and walls, according to the documents.

Additionally, all ponds, water features, and newly-constructed bodies of water shall be lined. Bodies of water for recreational use that are larger than 250 square feet would require a conditional use permit regardless of the water source.

The plan also outlines water application rules for new construction. Existing construction will also be enouraged to adhere to the rules that specify automatic irrigation systems for all common areas, residential, agricultural and commercial planting areas of new construction. Overhead spray shall be minimized and restricted to turf and flower beds, according to the documents.

Under the plan, watering schedules for landscaping will apply to everybody in the community. According to the documents, all common areas, residential units and commercial areas shall comply with watering schedules issued by Nye County Water District, which will set the days, time, and duration of time allowed for outdoor watering.

The implementation of the plan would require revisions to Nye County Code.

“The groundwater management plan has two fundamental goals,” Wichman said. “One is to reduce the overallocation, amount of water rights on the books. And two, to stabilize the water levels. Clearly, the water conservation element of this (plan) is to stabilize those water levels,” he said.

“It’s easy to say that we want to do something, more difficult to put it in a county code and actually have an enforecement mechanism,” Nye County Planning Department Director Darrell Lacy said.

The latest Pumpage Inventory Report that was done by the Nevada Division of Water Resources in 2013 shows a total water usage of 14,348 acre feet annually for all types of uses, including residential, commercial, industrial, municipal, recreational and agricultural irrigation.

With the agricultural irrigation use of 3,466 acre feet annually subtracted out, the remaining usage of 10,882 acre feet annually divided by the Pahrump population of 38,929 people, the per-capita daily use is 250 gallons per capita daily, the Nye County Planning Department data shows.

If conservation efforts were to reduce the daily per capita figure to the 198 gallons per capita daily, the goal of the Pahrump Master Plan update, about 11,000 more people could be supported by that same amount of pumped water.

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