During CA Drought, 412th CE Leads Way in Water Conservation

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Xeriscaping can take on many forms, ranging from decomposed granite that looks like dirt, to rocks with desert shrubs and low-water-use trees. Edwards has chosen to stick with a low-maintenance, decorative rock. (Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Rebecca Amber)

Article courtesy of Rebecca Amber | September 10, 2014 | Edwards Air Force Base | Shared as educational material

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — According to Gerald Boetsch, 412th Civil Engineering Group energy manager, Edwards has always been very proactive about water conservation. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order setting sustainability goals for federal agencies to improve their environmental, energy and economic performance. According to Boetsch, Edwards has already exceeded the water requirement, which is a 20 percent reduction in water intensity by 2020.“We continue to make efforts to reduce water consumption because it is a precious commodity and we want to be good stewards, not only to the base and the environment, but also to the Antelope Valley because it’s all one aquifer that we draw from,” said Boetsch. “The water usage here also affects people in Lancaster, so we try to be good stewards and good patrons of water in the valley.”

The Antelope Valley receives water from two sources – ground water from the Antelope Valley groundwater basin and surface water imported from the Sacramento River Delta using the aqueduct via the Antelope Valley East Kern Water Agency.

Edwards has been making the most of its water since 1996 when a sewage treatment plant was erected on Jones Road to start re-claiming waste water. The recycled water is used on the golf course, baseball fields and many other common areas throughout Edwards.

“We use our recycled water everywhere we can,” said Boetsch.

In an effort to reduce water usage, the base also moved away from evaporative cooling systems and started using air conditioning. But perhaps the most efficient way of cutting water usage yet is Xeriscaping. The desert-landscaping method is nothing new to Edwards, which started replacing lawns with Xeriscaping in the early 2000s.

What is new is the Xeriscaping plan that Brig. Gen. Michael Brewer, 412th Test Wing commander, signed into effect Nov. 2013. The plan outlines which areas will be Xeriscaped, in what priority and how the work will be done, with project money or in-
house money.

Some of the in-house jobs that have been done so far include the area in front of the bowling alley, the railroad cars and Burger King on Fitzgerald Blvd. Xeriscaping can take on many forms, ranging from decomposed granite that looks like dirt to rocks with desert shrubs and low water-use trees. Civil Engineering has chosen to stick with a low-maintenance, decorative rock.

“Granted, we don’t have enough recycled water to water everywhere; we still have to use potable water, ground water, but the big push, the big help is Xeriscaping. It keeps the desert looking nice and blending with the environment,” said Boetsch. “We’re not trying to make Edwards, in the middle of the desert, look like Wright-Patterson [AFB] in the middle of Ohio with acres of grass everywhere. That’s not the environment we live in.”

With all of CE’s conservation efforts, the overall water usage on Edwards has been reduced by around 10 percent in the last year alone.

The landscaping has been the largest consumer of water over the years, using roughly seven feet of water for every acre of grass annually.

There are still ways that the individual can help conserve water at home and work. Practical ways of reducing waste include turning off faucets and showers when not in use, calling for maintenance if a toilet is sticking and preventing “swamps” when watering the lawn.

Boetsch noted that even when water is recycled it still uses resources to clean the water in the sewage plant.

“Try not to waste water; don’t leave a sink running just because it’s convenient. Don’t leave the sink running while you’re brushing your teeth or let the shower run for several minutes prior to getting in,” said Boetsch. “We have the same issues for energy conservation, if you’re the last person to leave the room, turn the lights off. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you add up the number of bathrooms and the number of conference rooms across the base, it does add up to a lot.”


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