Steve Swanson knows a thing or two about beautiful, water-smart landscapes. As the former superintendent at three Red Rock Country Club golf courses, he helped transform 135 acres of grass bordering the course into attractive, yet drought-tolerant, landscape.
“As water rates increased, we had to look at how to make this a viable business. It was an easy decision for us from a business development perspective because it saved water and money, which impacted the bottom line,” Swanson said, noting that he partnered with the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) conservation staff to apply for the Water Smart Landscape Rebate program.
The golf course turf conversion projects save 323 million gallons of water per year and garnered a rebate of more than $3.5 million for the company. Now the branch manager of LandCare, a commercial landscape and maintenance installation company, Swanson is using his turf conversion experience and SNWA relationship to encourage other businesses to participate in the rebate program.
According to Swanson, removing water-thirsty grass is an easy sell from a business perspective because companies save significant amounts of water—while lowering water bills, reducing landscape maintenance costs, and reducing water damage to sidewalks and walls. Getting past the stereotype of what a desert landscape looks like is a harder push, which Swanson achieves by bucking the status quo on desert landscape designs.
“Using a palette of unique plants not often seen around town and a denser use of those plants helps the landscape look new and fresh,” Swanson said, explaining that project resistance often stemmed from management’s perception that the landscape had to feature a redundant and monotonous plant palette.
When the Hughes Center—a 68-acre commercial center in the heart of Las Vegas—recently decided to refresh its outdoor spaces and create a vibrant space for its tenants, Swanson put the property management in contact with SNWA.
“The golf course conversions were about a sustainable business plan. The Hughes Center is looking to create cool spaces with a sense of community for tenants that blend well with what SNWA is trying to achieve in its conservation efforts,” Swanson said. “The bottom line matters, but what’s more important is the fresh look and inviting community space.”
“The Hughes Center is not only responding to drought conditions, but they’re invigorating the property in a way that will help sustain its status as one of the region’s premier business parks,” said SNWA Conservation Manager Doug Bennett. “The SNWA rebate will help The Hughes Center accelerate their return on the capital investment, but the biggest benefit is to the community at-large. Valley-wide, projects like these have collectively saved more than 130 billion gallons of water since the program started.”
In December 2019, the Hughes Center completed a conversion of about 4,100 square feet of turf to an indoor-outdoor tenant lounge with a pool table, large chess board and surrounding water-smart landscaping. “It was the driving force that ignited the larger project,” Swanson said.
Up next is removing grass to create a “Central Park” area across from the Wells Fargo Tower. With nearly 250,000 square feet of grass on the property, Swanson said it will take a few years to refresh the entire complex and create the community-focused space the property owners have in mind.
“Turf and hedges offer only so much. It’s green, but it’s structured and simple. The Hughes Center wants to create a park-like atmosphere with a fresh look and interactive spaces,” Swanson said.
Through the SNWA’s Water Smart Landscape Rebate program, qualifying properties earn $3 per square foot of grass removed and replaced with water-smart landscaping up to the first 10,000 square feet converted per property, per year. Beyond the first 10,000 feet, the SNWA will provide a rebate of $1.50 per square foot. The maximum award for any property in a fiscal year is $500,000.
To learn more about the Water Smart Landscape Rebate, visit snwa.com or call (702) 862-3740.