Local lawns will have to learn to live without on Sundays this summer, but other landscaping can still take a drink.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority board approved a slightly watered-down version of new conservation rules on Thursday, banning the use of sprinklers for turf on summer Sundays but allowing their continued use for other plants any day of the week.
Instead, board members decided to make the new restriction apply only to lawns for fear skipping a day could damage people’s gardens and flower beds.
The new rules represent the first real change to watering restrictions adopted in 2003 in response to ongoing drought on the Colorado River, which supplies 90 percent of the valley’s drinking water.
First, though, the change will have to be ratified by the authority’s member agencies, which are ultimately responsible for imposing and enforcing landscaping codes and restrictions on water use.
Water authority general manager John Entsminger said the new rules should be easy for the community to swallow.
“Most people are already watering six days a week,” he said. “Sunday is already the most common day people skip when watering.”
Officials estimate eliminating sprinkler use on Sundays between May 1 and Aug. 31 would save as much as 900 million gallons of water during the hottest part of the year. That’s enough to supply more than 5,500 average valley homes — or about four average golf courses — for one year.
To go with the new Sunday rules, authority board members signed off on a change in the time-of-day restriction for sprinkler use. Under the current rules, sprinkler watering is prohibited between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. from May 1 through Oct. 1. That restriction will now run May 1 through Aug. 31 to match the summer watering schedule and reduce customer confusion.
Also Thursday, the board approved a uniform policy for fountains and other water features aimed at eliminating confusing differences in the rules among the county and the cities that make up the water authority.
None of the proposals drew significant opposition from the public during the meeting.
Entsminger said the new limits on Sunday watering will be voluntary this summer and mandatory starting next year, pending approval from the authority’s member agencies.
He said the rules will be brought back to the authority board before becoming mandatory so members can consider changes they might want to make.
Enforcement will be handled by water waste “cops” from the valley’s utilities, though generally without a heavy hand. People caught running their sprinklers on the wrong day or wasting water generally receive warnings first and, in rare cases, modest fines.
Sprinkler watering is already prohibited on Sundays in spring and fall, when such irrigation is limited to three assigned days per week, and in winter, when it is restricted to a single assigned day per week.
The new watering restrictions do not apply to drip irrigation systems, which may still run any day in summer.
Water authority conservation manager Doug Bennett said drip systems require so little water the authority tries to encourage their use rather than restrict it.
“Drip systems put out water in gallons-per-hour,” Bennett said. “Sprinkler systems are measured in gallons-per-minute.”
Contact Henry Brean at email@example.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.