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STEVE SEBELIUS: Body checking water wasters!

As nagging goes, it’s a pretty memorable nag.

Vegas Golden Knights right-winger Ryan Reaves — in full gear — body checking hapless homeowners who have forgotten their quarterly chore: resetting their sprinkler clocks to the new seasonal schedule.

The ads — running on TV, radio, billboards, print and in social media — are part of the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s ongoing campaign to get people to conserve water, especially water used outdoors that tends to evaporate or seep into the ground.

But, really, an NHL star literally knocking sense into a person? Isn’t that kind of violent? And it’s part of a pattern, too. (A few years ago, the authority featured an ad with a kindly old woman delivering a swift kick to the crotch of a water waster.)

“I think the intent of the ads, and they come across in the final production, is they are intended to be over the top,” says water authority spokesman Bronson Mack. “Based on the response we’ve seen, it’s over the top enough.”

Of course, no actual humans were harmed in the making of the ad.

Mack says the drama is necessary to reach Southern Nevadans who are inundated with thousands of advertising messages every day, inured to all but the most outlandish pitches. Things are even more difficult because the authority is trying to get people to do a chore, and people generally don’t like being nagged, especially by their own government using their own water-fee money.

“One of our biggest challenges is to get our people to perform a behavior four times a year,” he says, i.e. switching from several days of watering in the summer months to just a single day in winter. “We have more work to do. We need everybody to do this.”

And the need is clear: Nevada gets just 300,000 acre-feet of water per year from the Colorado River, the smallest allocation among the states by far. The river has been in a near constant drought, forcing the authority to take radical measures: New lawns aren’t allowed, a very expensive and technologically impressive pipeline was drilled into the very bottom of Lake Mead, and the authority has even considered a controversial plan of pumping rural groundwater from eastern Nevada to Las Vegas.

The easiest thing, however, is simply to conserve water, hence the ads.

According to Mack, the four ads in the campaign cost $450,000 to produce, not including Reaves’ $30,000 talent fee or the $482,500 paid to place the ads. The campaign was developed by local advertising experts R&R Advertising, which has a $4.9 million contract with the authority for advertising, education and outreach.

Is it worth it?

Mack says absolutely and has numbers to back that up: Since the end of October, water use is down 7 percent over the same time last year, which equates to 5.7 billion gallons of water. And that’s in spite of a 1.2 percent growth in the number of people turning on the taps in Southern Nevada.

“I have no question in my mind that there would be more water waste without these ads,” Mack says.

And they are memorable. During a recent Golden Knights game, a friend of mine overheard some fans talking as Reaves engaged in some on-ice fisticuffs. “The guy must have forgotten to reset his water clock,” one fan said.

Top of mind awareness? Mission accomplished.

There have been a variety of local government advertising campaigns over the years, from the benign to the banal. The Clark County Air Quality Department had a campaign in the past decade encouraging people not to be “dustholes.” (The idea was not to disturb desert land and stir up dust, diminishing air quality.)

Its authors were proud of the product, but there was less to the ad than met the eye.

The Southern Nevada Health District ran ads after the passage of the Clean Indoor Air Act, hectoring people about the now-illegal practice of smoking nearly everywhere. Nevada later bucked the national trend by relaxing some of its anti-smoking regulations in places where children aren’t allowed.

One of the better government ad campaigns comes from the Clark County Regional Flood Control District, which has produced ads reminding people that “water always wins” and not to tempt fate by driving through flooded areas.

Those ads feature actual footage of vehicles being swept away by fast-moving floodwaters, one of the few instances of reality TV actually providing a useful bit of information to the public. It’s also one of the rare instances where government advertising is aimed at saving lives.

As for the water authority, while expensive, the Reaves spots are way more entertaining than the ad glimpsed on the Las Vegas Valley Water District’s website last week, where a smug water drop hands an irritated homeowner a repeat-violation ticket for wasting water, carrying a fine of $160 bucks.

OK, OK, water people! We promise to stop wasting water and to change our watering clocks. Now, can we get please see an ad in which Reaves body checks annoying Mr. Water Drop?

Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0253. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

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