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California AF installations conserve water during drought

Los Angeles Air Force Base's 61st Civil Engineering and Logistics Squadron in California uses drought-tolerant plants and landscaping known as "xeriscaping" to minimize water use as part of Air Force resource conservation efforts. Many xeriscaped areas on the base are only watered once a month or not at all. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sarah Corrice/Released)

Los Angeles Air Force Base's 61st Civil Engineering and Logistics Squadron in California uses drought-tolerant plants and landscaping known as "xeriscaping" to minimize water use as part of Air Force resource conservation efforts. Many xeriscaped areas on the base are only watered once a month or not at all. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sarah Corrice/Released)

The water treatment plant at Travis Air Force Base, California, is capable of treating 7.5 million gallons of water per day. Conservation efforts at the base have led to a reduction of more than seven percent when compared to the same time period last year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ken Wright)

The water treatment plant at Travis Air Force Base, California, is capable of treating 7.5 million gallons of water per day. Conservation efforts at the base have led to a reduction of more than seven percent when compared to the same time period last year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ken Wright)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-Lackland -- Extreme drought conditions continue to persist in California for a fourth year, and for the first time in the state's history, residents are undergoing mandatory water conservation regulations in an effort to strengthen the state's water management and supplies to prepare for a potential fifth year of drought.

Threats such as drinking and agricultural water shortages, degraded fish and wildlife habitats, increased potential for wildfires and the threat of saltwater contamination were some of the influences behind Gov. Edmund G. Brown's executive order released in April. While various regulations were outlined in the order, Brown encouraged the populace to conserve by declaring a mandatory 25-percent statewide reduction in potable urban water usage from 2013 levels through February 2016.

Air Force installations in California, as well as many state agencies, have taken action and established additional efficiency measures to aid in reaching this milestone.

"As a federal agency, Los Angeles Air Force Base has been proactive in implementing water conservation initiatives and following presidential executive orders for many years, even before the severe drought conditions and the governor of California's recent executive order," said Lt. Col. Todd Inouye, commander of  the 61st Civil Engineer and Logistics Squadron at Los Angeles.

Los Angeles AFB, a recognized Air Force leader in sustainability and resource conservation, has continued its conservation efforts to do its part in reducing water usage during the drought. The base has progressed through initiatives that include altering landscape to be low maintenance and less water dependent, using recycled water for irrigation and sanitation on the main base, and installing high-efficiency urinals, toilets and sinks that reduce water usage by up to 50 percent.

"Through these combined water conservation efforts, the base's average water consumption has been reduced by 45 percent compared to consumption in 2007," Inouye said.

Los Angeles AFB estimates it will be able to save an additional 14.5 million gallons of water per year through two major water conservation projects currently in design and estimated to launch by spring of 2016.

While other California Air Force bases, including Beale, Vandenberg and Travis, have conducted similar initiatives, some of the bases have also found conservation success through the actions of those who work and live on base.

At Travis AFB, base personnel and residents received direction from 60th Air Mobility Wing Commander Col. Joel D. Jackson's water conservation policy letter issued in May. The letter implemented specific water restrictions and promoted water-saving actions. In addition to the letter, Travis responded to the drought through education and encouragement within the base community itself.

"Balfour Beatty Communities, which manages base housing, has implemented an aggressive program to educate family housing residents on how to significantly cut back and save water," said 2nd Lt. Nicholas Arellano, simplified acquisition base engineer requirements chief and acting base energy manager.

Through mediums such as monthly newsletters, websites and social media, base residents were provided with information and encouraged to engage in discussions on how to make water-conscious choices and handle resulting drought impacts, such as wildfires, during these extreme conditions. 

"Our Travis community has pulled together," said Mark Dupree, the community manager at the base. "We have seen considerable peer pressure to comply with Governor Brown's mandated savings. Residents, for example, have reported seeing diminishing water in Lake Berryessa, Lake Shasta and Folsom Lake, and have responded with dismay and concern.  Some residents are capturing water in buckets while hot water is being drawn in their tubs to use in flower beds."

Travis, like the other installations throughout the state, has already succeeded in saving millions of gallons of water. While drought mitigation efforts may vary throughout the state, California has already made great strides towards conserving potable urban water usage as a whole.

The continuation of innovative measures and guidance prioritized by military and civilian leaders across the state have been implemented to not just meet California's immediate needs but to contribute to strengthening the state's water management over the long term.