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Water officials investigating usage of wastewater for irrigation

Water officials will probe deeper into whether using treated wastewater to irrigate parks is worthwhile.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak asked the local water gurus Tuesday why drinking water is being used to moisten grass and vegetation in parks instead of reclaimed water.

Irrigating with the recycled water would be cheaper, put less strain on depleted Lake Mead and create jobs needed to install pipe systems, Sisolak argued.

“This could be a win-win-win on all three fronts,” Sisolak said.

Officials at the Las Vegas Valley Water District and Water Reclamation District agreed to study the feasibility of switching 78 county parks to reclaimed water. The research will include the cost of installing pipelines and expanding treatment plants.

They will bring the results to the County Commission in a month.

The 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.

Nearly all local golf courses use reclaimed water. Some irrigate strictly with this water, while others blend it with drinking water.

Pat Mulroy, the water district’s executive director, said the county captures nearly all of its wastewater, so it makes no difference whether it goes into parks or back into the lake.

But Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said it would save energy because less water would be pumped 30 miles from the lake and made drinkable.

Commissioner Tom Collins questioned how the county could install multimillion-dollar pipelines when it can’t afford to build sidewalks around parks.

Sisolak said it might take the county years to recoup the installation costs, but if it creates jobs and conserves water, and the county only breaks even, it’s worth it.

It’s unfair to tell residents not to wash their cars or take long showers while the county pours hundreds of millions of gallons onto the parks’ flora, Sisolak said.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

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