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I-Team: Catching water waste part of the job as Water District patrols for offenders |

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I-Team: Catching water waste part of the job as Water District patrols for offenders

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) -- There is a push to conserve water while Lake Mead is at record low levels.

If you have a lawn, there are designated days when you can water.

The I-Team obtained a map from the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) showing which ZIP codes are considered non-compliant. The worst offenders -- in red -- are in Centennial Hills and Summerlin. The orange areas -- more compliant than red, but still a problem -- are mostly in Henderson.

So what's being done about it?

The I-Team recently observed Las Vegas Valley Water District conservation aide Cameron Donnarumma at work. He visits neighborhoods to check for water waste. That includes making sure that sprinklers are watering grass and plants, and not the concrete, as well as compliance with designated watering days.

“I would say most people do cooperate with us for the most part,” Donnarumma said. “I’ve had a few customers that you know, they may be frustrated, but we try our best to kind of de-escalate the situation.”

Donnarumma said the goal is to first educate water customers, and that may come with a warning. The next step is a fine -- typically $80. That can keep doubling if the problem is not addressed.

“The drought that we’ve been experiencing here in Southern Nevada in the Colorado River Basin is absolutely serious,” said Bronson Mack, outreach manager for SNWA. “We’ve seen Lake Mead’s water level decline by about 140 feet since the year 2000. And since that time, our community has made the investment in water conservation.”

Many of the investigations begin because residents report water waste.

Residents can report water waste here: https://www.snwa.com/importance-of-conservation/water-waste/index.html or call 702-822-8571, the water waste hotline.

The Water Authority reports about $450,000 generated in fines so far this year, even though fines are rare.

In 2019, nearly 17,000 investigations took place, with only 9% of those reports receiving fines.

Numbers dip in 2020 and go back up this year to 12%.

And catching water waste in the act is tricky. Donnarumma has to be able to document the violation, which sometimes is missed by seconds.

"Normally, we would have filmed this, but the irrigation just shut off so what we're going to do is create a work order to come back to this. But we can't film it since it's not actively running," he said after seeing a possible violation.

For those he can document, it's a warning first. He points to social responsibility shared by everyone.

"This is a team effort. Everyone is involved here," Donnarumma said.

We didn't see Donnarumma issue any fines. One home did get a warning.