October 7-9, 2009 – WaterSmart Innovations Conference, Las Vegas, NV

In early October second year Fellow, Daniel Stern, attended the 2nd WaterSmart Innovations Conference to further his thesis research on public gardens and water-wise landscaping. The Southern Nevada Water Authority, EPA’s WaterSense Program, and the American Water Works Association were the primary sponsors of the conference, which brought together industry, government, and other professionals to share innovative approaches to water efficiency. Indeed, conference attendees needed to look no further than artificial turf used in the landscape outside the hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, where the average rainfall is less than four inches per year, to appreciate the dire need for water conservation.

View of desert scrub vegetation and colorful hills in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area outside of Las Vegas, NV

View of desert scrub vegetation and colorful hills in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area outside of Las Vegas, NV

The conference took place at the South Point Hotel and Conference Center and drew over 1,000 participants from 42 states and 12 countries. Featuring 130 half-hour concurrent sessions in a variety of professional tracks and more than 100 exhibitors the casino was abuzz with activity. The three-day event was punctuated by keynote addresses by Dan Bena, the international sustainability director for PepsiCo, and Jill Gill, former CEO of the Water Corporation of Western Australia and inaugural chairman of Water Australia. Another highlight of the conference was Railbird’s 2009 Intelligent Use of Water award ceremony http://www.rainbird.com/iuow/award.htm. The Naples Botanical Garden, Inc. of Naples, FL was awarded the 2009 Intelligent Use of Water™ Leadership Award. The evening’s event also featured a screening of the finalists in the 2009 Intelligent Use of Water Film Competition http://www.iuowfilm.com/.

Roof from old water resevoir retrofitted to serve as an awning over parking area and hold banks of photovoltaics at Springs Preserve

Roof from old water resevoir retrofitted to serve as an awning over parking area and hold banks of photovoltaics at Springs Preserve

Following the conference, Daniel visited The Springs Preserve, a 180-acre cultural site located three miles north of downtown Las Vegas http://www.springspreserve.org/html/home.html. There, Daniel met with Jay Nichols, General Curator, to get an overview of the institution’s history and tour of the site. The Las Vegas Valley Water District owns the Springs Preserve and started developing the site in 2005 as part of their public service strategic plan. The site houses the Desert Living Center, a campus of platinum LEED certified buildings dedicated to environmental education and providing a vision of sustainability by demonstrating “green” building techniques. Other major components of Springs Preserve include the Origen Experience, which features exhibits about the history of Las Vegas, and the Nevada State Museum.

Bird sculptures in the children's garden at Springs Preserve

Bird sculptures in the children's garden at Springs Preserve

Outside, Daniel explored the preserve’s carefully managed habitat collections that showcase the region’s history, geology, flora and fauna and also toured its eight-acre botanical gardens. The botanical garden’s history goes back to 1982 when the local Kiwanis Club opened a 2.5-acre Water Conservation Park on a different piece of land donated by the Las Vegas Valley Water District. The park’s gardens, which featured several hundred drought tolerant and regionally adapted species, was renamed the Desert Demonstration Gardens in 1990. In 2007, the Demonstration Gardens closed and many of its mature specimens were moved to the Springs Preserve site to form the backbone of its botanical garden. Today, the Garden provides educational outreach about water-efficient landscaping through demonstration gardens, classes, and expert advice.

Water-efficient display showing the irrigation demands of different kinds of turf at Springs Preserve

Water-efficient display showing the irrigation demands of different kinds of turf at Springs Preserve

Display of drought-tolerant plants at the Springs Preserve Botanical Garden

Display of drought-tolerant plants at the Springs Preserve Botanical Garden

Before flying back to the east coast, Daniel took advantage of the opportunity to visit a couple of nearby natural areas. He spent a morning hiking to Keystone Thrust in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and a scenic drive through Valley of Fire State Park in the afternoon. Both sites afforded a fantastic opportunity to learn about the region’s geological history, marvel at the beautiful rock formations, and practice some outdoor photography.

View of the Calico Hills in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

View of the Calico Hills in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Valley of Fire State Park, NV

Valley of Fire State Park, NV

Red sandstone (formed during the Jurassic period) at Valley of Fire State Park

Red sandstone (formed during the Jurassic period) at Valley of Fire State Park

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