Residential water limits, mandatory septic tank conversions proposed in massive conservation bill

Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 11:51 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Even with all the rain and snow we’ve got in Nevada this winter, two decades of drought in the West are forcing tough choices when it comes to water conservation. Monday, a 38-page bill was introduced during a hearing of the Assembly of Natural Resources Committee with all sorts of new rules and regulations aimed to conserve water proposed. Should some ideas become law, it would mean big changes for some people.

“Honestly, I think there is a lot of community awareness and demand for more conservation measures in Southern Nevada,” Assemblyman Howard Watts from Clark County argued. From mandating some property owners get rid of their septic systems to regulating plumbing fixtures for landscaping to how much water a homeowner can use, there is a push for change in the name of conservation.

“The key thing is that we want to make sure that when someone turns on their shower or flushes their toilet, that it operates or that when they turn on the sink for drinking water that it comes out,” Watts explained. Those supporting the bill say while it is nice to have things like a large pool or sprawling green lawn, the need for things like drinking water must take priority.

“I think there will be ample communication and outreach to the community about for example… you are going to have to let your lawn go brown so we can make sure all those other critical needs are met,” Watts argued.

Lawmakers are also discussing allowing the Southern Nevada Water Authority to restrict how much water residents get. SNWA would be the first water agency to have this type of control if approved. SNWA could limit water usage in single-family homes to 160 thousand gallons annually. Right now, the average home uses 130 thousand gallons per year.

Also proposed, if a property currently using a septic tank is within 400 feet of a community sewage connection, it must convert to the public system. That idea is not popular with some rural landowners like Kathleen Meehan.

“In my neighborhood, everyone is pretty much on a fixed income. They are retired. I know that you are going to try and help 50 percent, but you really got to consider some of these people that live in these areas that have septic tanks. It is going to be pretty hard for them to come up with the money including myself,” Meehan testified. The requirement of sure property owners with a septic system to convert to community sewer systems would not take full effect for 30 years, until January 2054.

It is unclear how the changes would be enforced.