Builders often face opposition to development from communities for various reasons. In Nevada, citizens are concerned about water conservation and members of the Las Vegas-based Southern Nevada Home Builders Association (SNHBA), who work and live in the community, are no exception. In the past two decades, local builders have increased water efficiency in new homes. And now, SNHBA is leveraging a new report to help educate the public and policymakers about water consumption in new homes.
Clark County, Nev., where Las Vegas is seated, represents a majority (75%) of the state's population; however, its citizens use less than 5% of the state's water because of "return flow credits." Over 90% of the water used indoors is treated and returned to Lake Mead, a reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. Nevada is the only state on the Colorado River that has this closed-loop system.
"Nevada is very proud to be the only state on the Colorado River to have a closed loop system, which allows new homes to be that much more efficient than older homes in Southern Nevada," says Nat Hodgson, CEO of the SNHBA. "As drought and climate change are growing issues our policymakers face across the nation, I only wish more states with higher allocations of water than we do, take advantage of the conservation measures we have been a part of for the last two decades."
Southern Nevada has been a leader in water conservation, yet the area is facing an unprecedented drought. The drought is putting significant pressure on local and state policymakers from environmental groups to halt construction as the state faces significant reductions in allocations. The local water authority published a report illustrating outdoor and indoor water savings as a result of usage of U.S. EPA WaterSense-labeled fixtures. Still, the results did little to overcome public misconceptions about home building.
SNHBA recently launched a strategic campaign to educate the community about home builders' efforts to curb residential water consumption. The association, supported in part by NAHB's State and Local Issues Fund, commissioned a study by the prominent economics firm, Applied Analysis, to examine water usage in residential construction. The report findings revealed that newly constructed homes use about 50 percent less water when compared to much older homes in Southern Nevada.
The report findings generated a flurry of local press attention. In an op-ed published in The Nevada Independent, Hodgson connected the dots between builders and water conservation:
"In addition to the frequent installation of the most water efficient indoor fixtures in the market today, it should be noted that truly wasteful consumptive water use, such as front yard turf lawn installation, has been eliminated from new home building for nearly 20 years. We're proud that we played our role in changing the standard American mindset to match climate conditions in the Mojave Desert."
As a part of the campaign, SNHBA also plans to share the report findings with local elected officials, as they continue to draft ordinances and regulations that significantly impact the cost of construction and the overall supply of housing.