The Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association will roll out a proposed program this week that could dramatically increase the efficiency of water use in new homes.
The program calls for shaving 30% or more from the amount of water used in a typical home, a total of about 75,000 gallons per year for each new home.
Participation in the program in the home building industry has been broad, with at least nine companies of various sizes involved in the year-long discussions to prepare the "Water Smart" program.
Pat Mulroy, water authority general manager, said the effort is modeled after a successful energy conservation drive familiar to many through the "Energy Star" label attached to homes and appliances.
Energy Star is a partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and industry that allows businesses to brand energy-efficient products with the label. The objective is to save energy, protect the environment and reduce energy bills.
In the case of the Southern Nevada water conservation drive, the brand would be "Water Smart."
"This gets right to the heart of sustainable housing in Southern Nevada," Mulroy said. "This is the water version of it. From what we can tell, there is no program like it in the United States."
Mulroy said the effort also helps ensure that area's important home building industry is not imperiled.
The program could be approved at the water authority board meeting next week.
Irene Porter, executive director of the home builders association, said a typical home in the Las Vegas area now uses about 240,000 gallons annually, or about 75% of an acre-foot. Trimming 75,000 gallons from that total would be about a third of the water typically used.
Last year, the region saw about 26,000 new homes come on the market. If all homes were able to save 75,000 gallons, it would total 1.95 billion gallons, or about enough water for 8,000 more homes each year.
Not everyone is as upbeat about the environmental aspects of the effort. Hermi Hiatt, a longtime environmental activist in Las Vegas, said the goal may be laudable, but the end result will be more homes in the desert.
"Obviously, the interest of the home builders is to build more homes," Hiatt said. "More homes means more people, more traffic, more air pollution, more dust,you name it. "It's a nice gesture to try to save water, but that really is a passport to build more homes in the long run."