By Karl Moffatt
Las Vegas Optic
Drought may have Las Vegas in a stranglehold but residents needn’t let their trees and lawns wither away because of it.
Las Vegas is the only city in the state where residents can use reclaimed wastewater for landscaping purposes and it can be as easy as hiring a local water hauler to do it.
“It’s a blessing because right now it’s about all we can do,” says Juan Baca who’s water hauling business is helping keep Las Vegas beautiful.
Under the city’s current Stage IV water use restrictions, which have been in effect for several years, residents can’t use household water to irrigate their lawns, trees or other landscaping.
But they can use all the recycled water they want for landscaping under the city’s waste water recycling program.
And now residential users can obtain recycled water from the city’s downtown facility at 905 12th St. where they can pick it up themselves or have it delivered by a hauler like Baca.
“We would encourage residents to utilize this valuable resource to keep their lawns and trees alive during these hard times,” says city Utilities Director Ken Garcia.
Previously residents had to go to the outskirts of town to the treatment plant to pick up effluent for landscaping use.
Under the recycling program residents pay only $1.25 per 1,000 gallons of treated waste water and a 50-cent service fee each time they load up.
Residents must have an account with the city to obtain the service, and all costs are billed to the account.
Water haulers can only pick up recycled water on behalf of account holders and are prohibited from reselling the water.
Baca, a construction contractor, says he believes he was the first local water hauler to go into business when the city instituted the program several years ago.
“The way it started was a friend of mine needed some water and my daughter needed a job,” Baca says.
Baca set up his daughter Valerie with an old pickup truck and trailer, several 250 gallon water hauling tanks, a pump, hoses and and nozzles.
“She did 400,000 gallons her first year,” Baca said of his daughter who just graduated from Robertson High School and is now enrolled in a nursing program at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Baca has since hired a young man named David Lesse to continue the service for an estimated 50 regular customers.
Customers pay $30 for a minimum 750-gallon load of water or $40 if they want it applied.
Baca says when people inquire about his service he tells them that it might be cheaper and less hassle for them to have their water delivered.
A used 250-gallon water tank like those seen in the beds of many pickups around town will cost $125 from Mallette Feed and Supply on the Mora Highway just outside of town.
A gallon of water weighs about eight pounds so a 250-gallon load of water weighs about a ton so a pickup truck may be needed to haul the water.
And then there’s the time and effort including waiting in line to obtain a load of water that folks need to take into consideration.
A 1,100-gallon plastic water storage tank from a supplier like Tractor Supply Company will cost about $650.
A typical home might use between 1,000 and 2,000 gallons a month for landscaping purposes and it’s worth the effort, Garcia says.
Trees and other vegetation provide shade to help keep the city cool during hot weather while absorbing poisonous carbon dioxide and converting it to life giving oxygen, he notes.
Robert George, domestic waste water team leader for the Ground Water Quality Bureau of the state Environment Department says Las Vegas is the only town in the state providing effluent to residents for landscaping purposes.
“They’re on the cutting edge of reuse,” George says. “We don’t have any other city in the state doing this.”
Garcia says the city’s ambitious waste water reuse programs have proven to be very popular with residents especially at several city parks where lush green lawns and shady trees provide a haven for play and picnics because of effluent use.
The waste water is treated to such an extent that is safe for landscaping use and with some additional treatment would be pure enough to drink, Garcia said.
Garcia said he hopes to see even more use of the city’s waste water in the future.
The city currently returns about 1 million gallons of treated waste water to the Gallinas river each day after about 1.5 million gallons is taken out for residential use, Garcia said.
The city is required to return only about half of that and the effluent program is using less than 1 percent of it, so Garcia sees plenty of room for more reuse.
“That’s just a drop in the bucket,” he quipped.