A boy in a green jersey hurls a football to his teammate as he darts past a cluster of jostling players.
The young receiver catches the ball and sprints into the end zone, while several players sitting on the grassy sidelines watch.
Unbeknown to these flag football teams visiting from Hawaii, they are playing on a field irrigated with treated wastewater at the Silver Bowl Sports Complex.
Most area golf courses use reclaimed water, but Silver Bowl is the only Clark County park that does so.
At the county's other 78 parks, crews moisten the grass and vegetation with drinking water, pumped from Lake Mead. In all, the county spends $1.5 million each year to water its parks.
County Commissioner Steve Sisolak questions why the county is piping about 800 million gallons a year of prime drinking water into park sod in a desert region where the main water source, Lake Mead, is severely depleted. That's the volume that 5,000 households consume yearly.
Sisolak said reclaimed water should be used instead to irrigate all of the county's parks, arguing that it would be cheaper, conserve the lake's water and even create jobs for workers who would install the pumps and pipes for funneling recycled water to parks.
The Las Vegas Valley Water District would pay for the installation from the fees it charges for reclaimed water, he said.
Sisolak said his proposal is raising questions that water officials are either unable or unwilling to answer, including how much the needed infrastructure would cost and how much money the county would save by irrigating parks with reclaimed water. He plans to introduce the proposal at the April 19 County Commission meeting.
"I don't know why someone hasn't thought of it before," Sisolak said. "I'm putting this on the agenda because I'm not getting straight answers."
The only apparent downside is it would cost the water district some money, he said.
Switching to reclaimed water seems a questionable conservation measure, said Pat Mulroy, the water district chief.
Lake Mead water that would be saved would be minimal, because whatever reclaimed water isn't sprayed in the parks would get sent back to the lake, she said.
The district, in fact, would lose return-flow credits: For every gallon of treated wastewater it puts back, it gets to pull a gallon of raw water from the lake.
This is one of the few counties in the nation that reuses nearly 100 percent of its wastewater, Mulroy said.
Still, there is no harm in taking a closer look at Sisolak's proposal, she said. "What we'll have to look at is a feasibility study."
The county's Water Reclamation District treats wastewater and sells it to the water district for a little more than $1 per 1,000 gallons. The water district dispenses the reclaimed water at a cost of $2.33 per 1,000 gallons.
Pricing for drinking water is not so straightforward. It has multiple tiers based on the size of the meter and the amount of water used.
Last year, Desert Breeze Park took in about 133 million gallons of drinking water at a cost of $431,000. That same volume of reclaimed water would have cost about $310,000.
Sisolak said those kinds of cost savings are significant enough to explore.
PIPELINE COULD BE COSTLY
No data was available on how much the water district would have to pay to bring reclaimed water to even the county's seven regional parks, which are 150 acres or larger. But Marty Flynn, Water Reclamation District spokesman, estimated it would be well in the millions of dollars.
A key problem is the reclamation district has only two treatment plants, its main one in the east valley and another on the west side, Flynn said. Decades ago, they were built in low-lying areas so that gravity would help draw sewage from the main population center to the plants.
Since then, development has fanned out to different corners of the valley, resulting in many county parks being miles from the plants.
Silver Bowl is fairly close to the main plant, which is why piping the recycled water to that park was practical, Flynn said. The satellite plant in the west valley is next to Desert Breeze Park, making a connection feasible as long as the plant has enough capacity.
If the plant lacks capacity, it would have to be expanded, Flynn said.
Parks that are farther away would require a pumping system to be added at the main plant, and at least one pump station closer to the park itself, he said.
Again, those kinds of upgrades wouldn't be cheap, Flynn said.
Some parks could tap into nearby city treatment plants if the county makes an agreement with those entities, Flynn said. Lone Mountain Park, which is near a Las Vegas plant in the northwest valley, is an example.
Sisolak said he was told that the county also could hook into the golf courses' main water lines, rather than bury miles of new pipes.
Some of the work might be expensive but would be worth it, Sisolak said.
In the short term it would create much-needed jobs, and in the long run it would save the county money while establishing a more sensible water policy for parks, he said.
"We're telling people to use low-pressure toilets and not to wash their cars in their driveways, and yet we use 132 million gallons a year just in Desert Breeze," Sisolak said.
He offered two reasons why using reclaimed water instead of drinking water would be more economical: It would save on power costs because less water would have to be pumped 30 miles from Lake Mead. And the more stringent treatment for drinking water could be skipped.
Local golf course operators think it's a sound business practice to use recycled water for irrigation, Sisolak said, adding that if it's good enough for them, it should be good enough for county parks.
Irrigating parks with reclaimed water is widespread, he said, noting that major cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego use this method. And many California growers spray reclaimed water on their crops, so there's little question that it's safe, he added.
Flynn said a type of bleach is injected into reclaimed water to make it fit for full body contact at Silver Bowl. But Mulroy said that just because the water is safe to roll around in doesn't mean that all parents will be comfortable having their kids' ball fields imbued with it.
"Will the public accept it?" Mulroy asked. "Some of it is reality versus public perception."
On Friday, Jacob Delaura, who was coaching one of the boys' football teams and who had two sons playing at the Silver Bowl, said he had no concerns that treated wastewater was applied to the fields.
"To me, it seems fine," he said. "There's no smell. You can't tell the difference. Who would've known?"
Newer golf courses are required to buy reclaimed water. Most others opted for recycled water after the water district began selling it at a flat rate instead of multitiered rates, Mulroy said.
The district also paid to install the pipes.
Sisolak said if the county decides to switch to recycled water, he hopes the district doesn't raise its water rates as a penalty for buying less drinking water.
"This is their biggest money," Sisolak said of the parks.
Mulroy said Sisolak has nothing to worry about. The parks make up a fraction of the district's overall demand, and wouldn't affect rates one way or the other.
"No one customer drives a rate increase," Mulroy said.
Contact reporter Scott Wyland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-455-4519.