Academy's conservation effort results in big savings

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Thanks to a base-wide conservation effort led by the 10th Civil Engineer Squadron, the Academy has significantly slashed its water usage and tax dollar spending.

According to Fred Williams, the 10 CES chief of operations, the Academy's water conservation effort mirrors recent restrictions approved by the Colorado Springs City Council to reduce water usage across the city by 30 percent.

"During the last five years we've made efforts to convert several areas here to synthetic grass including Falcon Stadium, the cadet varsity baseball and lacrosse fields and several smaller locations," Williams said.

Williams said the installation also cut back on sod replacement by more than 70 percent, saving the Academy more than $34,000 on installation costs alone.

"We've also 'Xeriscaped' the B-52 Circle Island and laid mulch down across Academy grounds," Williams said. "Xeriscape landscaping requires little-to-no irrigation."

Based on the cumulative savings from the Academy's conservation efforts during the last five years, Williams said he predicts the installation will save 17.8 million gallons of water valued at $85,000 this fiscal year.

"In April and May alone, we saved almost $200,000," said Keith Butala, the 10th CES deputy civil engineer. "We're going in the right direction to save a depleting resource."

Williams said watering hours for Academy housing are currently based on home addresses. He said potable, or treated water areas across the Academy are only watered Monday and Friday.

"Areas where sod has been replaced are irrigated more frequently," Williams said. "They fall under an alternative Colorado Springs Utilities watering plan that allows for new plantings to be watered on a different schedule for the first 28 days after being placed in the ground."
There is no CSU-established restriction on non-potable water, he said.

"The Academy gets its non-potable water from a combination of private wells and waste water, both safe to be released into the local rivers," Williams said.

To continue safeguarding the environment and U.S. tax dollars, Williams said the Academy has restricted non-potable water usage to match the 30 percent potable water usage decrease. He said to meet this goal, the road medians, golf course, cemetery and cadet athletic fields here are only watered Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

"The wells where we get the water from are pumped into four non-potable water reservoirs, three of which are actively used for irrigation storage," Williams said. "Usually by this point the water levels are down several feet, but this year they are basically at full capacity."

Williams said no other restrictions are planned for this season, unless CSU implements another phase of their current water shortage ordinance.

"That decision will be based on CSU's ability to store water for a determined amount of time and any further restrictions will be implemented according to CSU guidelines," he said.