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Southern Nevada Water Authority

Frequent Questions - Water Smart Landscapes

Water Smart Landscapes

Get answers to your questions about the
Water Smart Landscapes Rebate.

Artificial Turf

Can I receive credit for replacing my lawn with artificial turf?
We will accept artificial turf as a substitute for mulch (instead of rock or bark). However, it must be permeable (allowing air and water to pass freely) and all other program conditions must be met, including the 50 percent plant coverage requirement, low-flow irrigation, etc.

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Concrete Patios, Curbing, Walkways, Driveways

Do I get credit for putting in a concrete patio, curbing, walkways or an extension to my driveway?
No. You can incorporate all of these into your landscape, but we will not include these areas in determining your incentive. We will subtract these nonpermeable areas from those that meet our conditions when determining your incentive.

However, if the patio or walkway is brick or flagstone with sand grouting (not concrete) allowing air and water to pass through, these could be included in your conversion area, assuming all other program conditions are met.

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Conversion Costs

How much does a typical conversion usually cost?
Most of our program participants spend about $2 per square foot for their landscapes. Elaborate landscapes with retaining walls, landscape lighting and other amenities may cost $5 per square foot or more. For money-saving tips, attend a free class at the Gardens at the Springs Preserve. When considering the overall financial impact of your new landscape, don't forget to consider that your water and maintenance costs will be significantly reduced. SNWA's studies show the average annual household water and maintenance costs of program participants decreased by more than one-third.

Are there financing options?
Most banks offer home improvement loans that can be used for landscaping. Since SNWA issues your rebate check in less than 60 days after you complete your project, you can apply it against the principal of the loan. Some landscapers offer financing plans to allow you to pay the final balance for your project after you receive your rebate check.

Is the rebate check considered taxable income?
Rebates may be considered taxable income. We recommend that you consult your tax advisor for further information.

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Energy Efficiency

Won't Water Smart Landscaping make my house hotter and run-up my power bills?
No. Shade is the key to keeping you cool in the desert. Shading keeps areas 10 to 25 degrees cooler. Lawns feel cool because so much water is evaporating from them. There are dozens of water-efficient trees and vines that can be used to shade south and west exposures from our relentless desert sun. A water smart landscape with very dense plantings uses less than half as much water as a lawn.

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Filter and Pressure Regulator

Why do I need a filter and pressure regulator?
The emitters on your drip irrigation system have very small openings for the water to pass through. The filter prevents sediment from clogging your emitters, ensuring your plants will get the correct amount of water. A pressure regulator keeps the irrigation system at the manufacturer's recommended pressure (usually between 20 and 40 pounds per square inch). Not installing a pressure regulator may cause fittings and lines to fail, creating wasteful breaks and leaks in your system.

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I turned off the water on my grass already and it has started to die. Can I still qualify for the program?
Since the purpose of the program is to reduce existing water demand, you must be currently maintaining a grass lawn. Do not remove the grass until after SNWA completes the pre-conversion visit or your conversion will be ineligible. A SNWA staff member must validate the turf areas before you start your project.

If you quit watering well before sending in your application, there is still a possibility you might qualify. Our staff will make a determination during the pre-conversion site visit. If you're planning to use a sod cutter or to remove the sod by hand, you'll find it much easier to remove if the soil is moist. Also, simply withholding water from bermuda grass is not adequate to kill it. To kill bermuda grass with chemical herbicide, it must be actively growing.

Can I receive credit for replacing my high water-use grass with a low water-use grass?
No. This program provides an incentive to convert grass to alternative types of landscaping, including trees, shrubs and groundcovers. These use less water than even the lowest water-use grass. However, the Water Authority does encourage homeowners to use low water-use grass in those areas where grass is needed or desired.

If I have kids and a dog, how do I incorporate water smart landscaping in my yard?
One of the seven principles of water smart landscaping is functional lawn areas. You don't have to eliminate your entire lawn to participate. Some conversion projects simply involve creating a buffer area around the edge of an existing lawn. To determine where you might have nonfunctional turf, ask yourself: "When people walk on this grass, are they most likely to be pushing a lawn mower?"

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Homeowners' Associations

What if my HOA requires me to keep grass in my yard?
Nevada Revised Statutes prevent a homeowners' association (HOA) from restricting the installation of water-saving landscape. In some cases, your board may not be aware of the potential conflict between their covenants and the law. In every case, your HOA is still likely to have some say in the design of your landscape. To avoid problems, be sure you follow all appropriate HOA policies that may apply to your new landscaping project.

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What is mulch and why do you require it?
The most common types of mulch are decorative rock or bark. Mulch helps maintain the moisture level and the temperature of the soil. Without mulch, wind and heat would pull the moisture out of the soil and more water would be needed to keep your plants healthy. Also, the temperature of the soil would constantly fluctuate causing a lot of stress to your plants. Some of the other benefits include the reduction of weed growth, erosion and certain insect diseases.

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What plants can I use in my water-smart landscape?
The Water Smart Landscape program does not require particular plants, only that when fully mature, the plants cover at least 50 percent of the converted area. You can use any plant you want to meet this requirement, but we encourage the use of drought-tolerant plants. You also should consider keeping your existing trees because they provide shade to your home and landscape.

We offer a list of the most common plants used in Southern Nevadan landscapes. The list is sorted by both plant common names and botanical names. The list includes the mature size of each plant in square feet to help ensure you meet the 50 percent canopy coverage requirement.

You also should check out our Plant Search. This resource allows you to search for plants based on needs such as sunlight exposure, season of bloom and water requirements.

Do I get credit for removing my high water-use plants?
No. Our program is focused only on the removal of grass. However, you can water most shrub beds more effectively by converting the irrigation system to drip irrigation.

I have many plants surrounding the grass that I'm removing. Will these plants count toward the 50 percent canopy requirement?
No. We will only count those plants that are either currently planted in the grass or those that are added to the area where the grass is to be removed, such that the trunk or stem of the plant is in the converted area.

Why do you require plants?
This program encourages the use of water efficient landscaping, and we want that landscape to be attractive in order to encourage others to do the same. Trees, shrubs and groundcovers provide shade, absorb carbon dioxide, supply oxygen, reduce soil erosion, give wildlife a home, decrease energy use, lessen noise pollution, lower air temperatures, reduce storm water run-off and a host of other benefits.

Do plants have to cover 50 percent of the conversion area when you come and inspect my landscape?
You can choose plants at any size you like. We always use the "full mature" values to determine plant coverage.

I don't like the desert plants and rocks.
Water-smart landscaping is so much more than rocks and cactus. There are more than 500 plants that are resilient enough to tolerate our harsh environment and soils with a little help. With proper design and plant selection, you can accomplish almost any look or feel and still save water. For some attractive examples, see the Landscape Award winners.

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Restrictive Covenant and Grant of Conservation Easement

What is a conservation easement?
Easements are granted by the property owner and define certain limitations on land use. This Conservation Easement restricts only those portions of your property where you received an incentive for landscape conversion. The easement "runs with the land," meaning that all owners of the property must abide by the terms and is similar to the type of covenants property owners agree to in most homeowners' associations.

What if I want to modify my landscape?
You may make changes to your landscape (such as replacing or moving plants, changing mulch materials or even undertaking a complete redesign), provided you do not install irrigated lawn or grass, spray irrigation systems, swimming pools, ponds or other bodies of water or water features in any portion of the converted area. You do not need to notify the SNWA of changes that do not substantially alter the character of the conversion area.

Why is the easement required?
The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) issues bonds to support conversion rebates. The agreement assures the water savings from the project will be sustained in perpetuity, producing a permanent community benefit.

Who keeps track of this information?
These documents will be recorded with the Clark County Recorder. If the property is sold, the easement can be identified through a title search and disclosed to a buyer. A copy of the recorded documents will be available to you for your personal records. SNWA also will maintain a copy of these documents in their business records.

How long will the easement be in effect?
The easement applies in perpetuity. You and anyone who owns the property in the future will be prohibited from installing irrigated lawn or grass, spray irrigation systems, swimming pools, ponds or other bodies of water or water features in the converted areas.

How will SNWA enforce the agreement?
SNWA periodically conducts non-intrusive inspections to assure long-term compliance with the program agreement and easement. If a violation is discovered, SNWA may enforce the easement by requesting voluntary corrective action or by pursuing legal action.

Who needs to sign the document?
If the property title is solely in your name, only you need to sign the document in the presence of a notary. If more than one person's name is on the property title, each owner will need to sign the document and have their signature notarized. If the property is owned by a corporation, partnership, trust, limited liability company or other entity, an authorized officer, agent, partner, trustee, member or other appropriately-authorized representative may sign the easement before a notary.

What if I sell my property during the conversion process?
You must grant the easement before SNWA will issue your incentive. If you transfer the property to a new owner before the easement is granted, you will not be eligible to receive the incentive payment.

What if I have additional concerns?
A conservation easement is a legal document. You may wish to consult your attorney if you have questions regarding interpretation or applicability of the easement.

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Water Smart Contractors

Do I have to use one of the Water Smart Contractors?
No. The Water Smart Contractors program provides a list of those landscape contractors who are licensed and bonded. These contractors have attended SNWA training. You can choose any contractor, whether on our list or not, or you can do the work yourself.

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Weed Barriers

Do I have to use a weed barrier?
No. Weed barriers are generally recommended in areas that have a particular weed problem or those areas where Bermuda grass is being removed. If a weed barrier is used, it must be permeable, such as fabric or mesh.

Why can't I use an impermeable weed barrier like plastic?
Any rainwater we receive would run off and be wasted if you had an impermeable weed barrier. In addition, not allowing water and air to pass through can cause serious damage to the plants in the area and surrounding area. Also, the heat of the summer here can cause plastic covering to become brittle and break up, causing it to look unattractive.

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Are well owners eligible for the Water Smart Landscapes Program rebate?
Yes, but there are certain limitations. While well users are encouraged to participate in the Water Smart Landscapes Program and further conservation efforts in Southern Nevada, rebates are subject to the availability of special funds and limited to 2,500 square feet per fiscal year.

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