Sun City Summerlin is adding more brown to its landscaping. The retirement community is taking a proactive stance on water use in light of the drought.
Sue Papilion, interim executive director, said the board looked into its water use more than a year ago. It spends $2.5 million on water annually.
“We’re in the middle of a 13-year, 14-year drought,” she said, “and it wouldn’t be long before the (Southern Nevada Water Authority) was going to have to do something. … We decided that we would start reducing more of our grass.”
Brian Bagwell, director of golf course maintenance at Sun City Summerlin, said the community had already shown itself to be proactive about water saving when it removed 18 acres of golf course turf in 2008.
This time, grass will be taken out around the clubhouses, as well as 6 acres worth on the golf courses and common areas.
“Some of the greenbelts will be removed,” he said. “… We’re looking for places where it won’t affect play.”
Greenbelts are where golf balls usually fly over the land.
Papilion said it takes 6 feet of water annually to support a plant in the desert. Grass removal is planned for at least two more years, she said. The three-year goal looks to reduce usage by 20 percent.
At least half of the plantings will be removed from common areas. In mid-July, 176 plants and 12 trees were removed from Lake Mead Boulevard, between Rampart and Del Webb boulevards. Once a plant is removed, the drip system to that plant is capped off.
“You wouldn’t even know they’re gone,” Papilion said. “What happened was, when Del Webb built this place, they put in all these little plants. They wanted everything to look nice, but they put in way too many plants. … They’ve all grown up, and now they’re big, and they’re crowding each other.”
Another water issue cropped up July 18 in Sun City. One of the four pumps at Palm Valley Golf Course, 9201 Del Webb Blvd., cracked and had to be removed.
“As a result, in order to keep the remaining pumps from overworking and breaking, we have had to stop watering the greenbelts, and they will be entirely brown for the rest of the summer,” the community advised residents in a July 28 alert. “They will come back next year, but we cannot possibly undo the damage without massive amounts of water and, due to the drought, that makes no sense. We are sorry the pump broke and the greenbelts had to be sacrificed, but, as it is, the remaining pumps are overheating now two to three times a night just trying to not lose the golf course.”
The old pump was replaced Aug. 10 for about $10,000. The pumps are about 14 years old. They sit in water and are subject to corrosion. Bagwell said he knew it was beginning to fail.
“We expect them to last maybe 10, 12 years, but we do routine maintenance on them, quarterly, to make sure they’re running the way they should,” he said. “We noticed they weren’t sounding (normal). They’re in a wet well, so you can’t look at them and say, ‘Oh, yeah, everything’s great.’ ”
When they pulled out the pump, it was covered in scum and barnacle-like growths, obscuring the metal.
Even before the pump broke, the community was told that conservation measures were being enacted that would see plants at medians turn brown and die as irrigation was being culled back. The broken pump prompted the decision to cut off water to the community’s greenbelt parks, Papilion said.
Papilion said even with fewer plants and brown tinges to parts of the grass, “I still think it’ll be one of the most beautiful places on earth.”
Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.