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Water resource management announced as focus of Air Force Earth Day 2013

  • Published
  • By Chad Starr
  • AFCEC Public Affairs
Each year Air Force installations around the world observe Earth Day on April 22 by taking actions to enhance sustainability and support the Air Force's Earth Day theme of "Conserve Today - Secure Tomorrow."

This year, the Air Force is highlighting water resource management programs, including conservation, water quality and pollution prevention, wastewater and stormwater management, and use of innovative water-saving technologies in design, construction, landscaping and facilities sustainment, restoration and modernization.

Fresh water is a limited, mission-critical resource essential for Air Force operations. It is the third pillar of the Net Zero program, along with energy and waste. Improved water resource management is also a goal of the Department of Defense Sustainability Performance Plan.

The plan, adopted by the Air Force, calls for a reduction in consumption of potable water from fiscal 2007 levels of 26 percent by fiscal 2020, and a reduction in consumption of industrial and irrigation water from fiscal 2010 levels of 20 percent by fiscal 2020. It also establishes a goal to maintain pre-development hydrology for development and redevelopment projects of 5,000 square feet or greater to the extent possible.

The Air Force continues to make significant progress in cutting water consumption on its way to achieving the fiscal 2020 goals.

In fiscal 2012, the Air Force reduced potable water intensity by 18.4 percent from the fiscal 2007 baseline. That's 5.3 percent better than fiscal 2011, and well ahead of the fiscal 2012 goal of 10 percent.

Last fiscal year, the Air Force also reduced non-potable industrial, landscaping and agriculture, or ILA, water consumption by 4.6 percent from the fiscal 2010 baseline, exceeding the 4-percent goal for that year.

Aggressive action across Air Force installations to detect leaks and repair infrastructure; replace and upgrade fixtures; disconnect ineffective irrigation systems, incorporate Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design principles; and use non-potable water sources whenever possible were key factors contributing to this successful conservation of potable water.

Xeriscaping, more efficient irrigation and implementing recycling projects to service remaining landscaping applications contributed to reduced consumption of ILA water.
For example, when the City of Wichita Falls, Texas, hit stage two of a drought warning in June and announced a goal of 15 percent water consumption reduction for the city, Sheppard Air Force Base responded by doubling that goal and achieved a 30-percent overall water consumption reduction through the first two months. The base made water efficiency upgrades at multiple facilities to help achieve that goal.

At Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., a wastewater reuse system was installed for irrigating the 47-acre golf course, replacing more than 70 million gallons per year of potable water previously used and reducing Holloman's annual water demand by 15 percent.

By replacing Kentucky bluegrass with buffalo grass on three projects, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, reduced irrigation requirements by 80 percent, saving approximately 50 million gallons of water annually.

Although the Air Force is making progress, officials emphasize that more needs to be done and every Airman can make a difference.

"To temper our appetite for, and impact on, the natural and fiscal resources needed to execute the Air Force mission into the future, we must continue to seek and recognize opportunities for achieving long-term efficiencies and lifecycle benefits," said Acting Undersecretary of the Air Force and senior sustainability official Jamie M. Morin.

"Together, through the efforts of every Airman, everyday, the Air Force will continue to lead this effort."

To capture individual environmental actions, the Air Force is continuing to collect personal posts on its "Blue Acts of Green" Facebook page, launched last year at Airmen and their families are encouraged to demonstrate their support by committing to perform an act of "green" at home or work to benefit the environment.

To assist installations in observing Earth Day, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center is also producing its annual Earth Day toolkit which will be available March 22 on the AFCEC website at