Gov. Brian Sandoval has signed an executive order forming a panel of experts to examine ways to reduce water use and study how Nevada can be more efficient and technologically savvy with water conservation during this season of record drought.
Speaking on April 8 from the dry bottom of Washoe Lake, Sandoval announced the panel, called the Nevada Drought Forum, but did not impose restrictions on water use as has been done in neighboring California.
In addition, the governor has ordered an audit of water use by state agencies and is calling upon the state engineer’s office, the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, Southern Nevada Water Authority, Desert Research Institute and others to contribute their expertise in finding solutions to the water crisis.
“Drought affects all Nevadans and we must work together to ensure a path to sustainability for future generations,” Sandoval said in a prepared statement. “The Nevada Drought Forum will bring together some of the best minds in the water science, conservation, government and industry sectors to ensure that Nevada’s path forward is clear. The forum will provide an opportunity for all Nevadans – urban and rural, north and south – to come together to help address this most critical challenge.”
Whereas the governor of California has mandated a 25 percent reduction in water use there, the Truckee Meadows Water Authority has asked its residential and commercial customers for a 10 percent reduction in both inside and outside water use. TMWA has said this will save 1.6 billion gallons of water stored in upstream and underground reserves.
Water authority spokeswoman Marlene Olsen said that in fiscal year 2014, the average residential single-family customer used 136,000 gallons of water.
According to the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the average American shower uses uses 17.2 gallons of water and lasts 8.2 minutes. Older shower heads use more water, with modern shower heads using about 2.5 gallons per minute. The largest water users in American homes are toilets and washing machines.
With that average, a 10 percent reduction would cut Northern Nevada shower times to 7.4 minutes, using 15.5 gallons of water.
TMWA also recommends running sprinklers between four and six minutes with no more than three run times per day. More conservation recommendations are online at www.tmwa.com.
Olsen also said TMWA customers are currently using 15 percent less water than they were 10 years ago, through a combination of a “culture of conservation” and “planning for the future” by the water agency. She said TMWA plans for a nine-year drought cycle, which is one year longer than the worst drought on record, which occurred from 1987 to 1994.
“We are fortunate to have a robust supply system of upstream reservoirs and underground reserves available for use during dry years,” Olsen said. “During the winter months, groundwater supplies are also enhanced and protected when TMWA recharges approximately eight million gallons of treated water per day through its wells into the aquifer for future drought-year use.”