Updated April 11, 2023 - 11:06 am
A bill that would give the Southern Nevada Water Authority the power to limit residential water use in Las Vegas during severe drought took its first step toward becoming law Monday.
The Assembly Committee on Natural Resources voted to approve Assembly Bill 220, sending the wide-ranging omnibus water conservation bill out of committee.
The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Howard Watts, D-Las Vegas, would allow the water authority to cap residential water use at 0.5 acre-feet, or roughly 163,000 gallons, of water per year if the federal government has declared an official water shortage for the Colorado River, which supplies about 90 percent of Southern Nevada’s water.
If approved, the legislation would make Nevada the first state to give a local water agency permanent say over how much water residents can use.
The water authority has said that the provision would only affect the top 20 percent of users in the Las Vegas Valley, as around 80 percent of homes use less than 163,000 gallons annually, with the average home using about 130,000 to 132,000 gallons.
Beyond the water restrictions, the bill also would set up a program to eventually require thousands of homes with septic systems to convert and connect to Southern Nevada’s municipal sewer system, a measure aimed at ensuring that more water can be recycled and sent back to Lake Mead rather than being lost into the ground.
Those who get their water from groundwater wells would not be required to convert to the sewer system under the bill.
That septic tank provision has met the most pushback thus far, with septic users raising concerns over the high costs of connecting to the sewer system.
An amendment to the bill proposed by Assemblywomen Sabra Newby, D-Las Vegas, and Tracy Brown-May, D-Las Vegas, and adopted Monday increased the amount that the water authority would pay for the costs of conversions, from 50 percent in the original bill to 85 percent after the amendment.
“I still want to get it to 100 percent, I’m not gonna lie,” Newby said during Monday’s hearing.
Three Republican Assembly members — Toby Yurek of Henderson, Rich Delong of Reno and Alexis Hansen of Sparks — voted against the bill.
Yurek said his Henderson district has a “large number of people that would be impacted by this bill,” and while he appreciated the work that had been put in to tweak the bill, it wasn’t quite enough for him.
“I can fully appreciate the intent of this bill and the challenges that we’re having with water in Nevada, particularly on the Colorado River system,” Yurek said. “I don’t think it came far enough for me to give it my full endorsement.”
The bill now heads to the full Assembly for a vote.