When Facilities Manager Jim Rainey was tasked with finding ways to implement more sustainable practices at the building he manages, he developed a plan to replace the property’s water-thirsty grass with a water-smart landscape and pitched it to the new management team.
“It was an easy sell. The grass is dying every year anyway, and it takes a lot of work to keep it alive,” said Rainey, who oversees a Cannae Holdings Inc. building on Village Center Circle in Summerlin. Built in 1998, the building’s mature landscape also included shrubs that had seen better days. “After so many years, you can only trim the shrubs so much before they look like sticks.”
To help offset the costs of the landscape upgrade, Rainey applied for the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) Water Smart Landscapes rebate program, which offers up to $3 per square foot for grass replaced with a drip-irrigated landscape. The 2,750 square-foot conversion earned the property owners an $8,250 cash incentive and is saving more than 151,000 gallons of water annually.
“The water savings are a big deal,” Rainey said. In addition to reducing the property’s water bills and operating costs, the landscape conversion also eliminated water waste caused by sprinkler overspray. “On windy days, the wind would just blow the sprinkler water off the grass, which wastes water. With drip emitters around the plants and trees, you eliminate the water waste and use water more efficiently.”
The tenants also expressed support for the landscape upgrade. “Everybody is really pleased with the way it turned out. People have commented that this is a pleasant place to come to work, and they’re happy about the change,” Rainey said.
For property owners who may be reticent to remove grass because it provides greenery or because they do not know where to start, Rainey noted that desert landscapes can be vibrant and colorful, and they can use plants from the existing landscape. As part of the Village Center Circle upgrade, Rainey kept dozens of trees and healthy shrubs that continue to provide shade and keep the area surrounding the building lush and green. The aesthetic presentation of the upgraded landscape includes the mature foliage as well as new plants and, of course, drip irrigation.
“You don’t have to start at ground zero. What you want to do is capitalize on what you’ve already got and build on that,” said Rainey, who recommended keeping healthy trees and shrubs. “So, you’re not getting rid of everything, and at the same time you’re conserving water.”
“Jim Rainey is a great example of a water conservation champion,” said Doug Bennett, SNWA conservation manager. “We need more people like Jim to help property owners see the benefit of replacing grass with water-smart landscapes, especially as our community continues to face a historic drought and shortage conditions which will reduce our community’s water supply by nearly 7 billion gallons in 2022.”
The SNWA has taken significant steps to prepare for shortage conditions, including constructing Intake 3 and the Low Lake Level Pumping Station and storing unused water in reserve for our community’s future use. A new law signed by the Nevada governor also will help protect the valley’s water supply. Assembly Bill 356 prohibits the use of Colorado River water to irrigate nonfunctional turf in streetscapes, medians, parking lots and other grass not used for recreational purposes by the end of 2026.
“The amount of water we’re applying to these decorative turf areas exceeds the shortage we’re facing. The solution to balancing our water supply is literally beneath our feet,” Bennett said, noting that with the unprecedented shortage declaration, business leaders and residents need to step-up their commitment to conservation. “These efforts will help assure our community’s long-term economic success.”
Find out how you can reduce your business’ operating costs and take advantage of cash incentives by emailing one of SNWA’s business experts at email@example.com or call 702-862-3740.
Members of the editorial and news staff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal were not involved in the creation of this content.