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Home : News : News
NEWS | July 11, 2013

Air Force directive prompts water conservation

By Alex Salinas Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

While the San Antonio area is susceptible to extreme climate conditions of all kinds, especially drought, Joint Base San Antonio takes the lead to conserve water year-round.

"We are mandated to reduce our water use intensity by 2 percent per year from a baseline water use of 2007 to 2020," Aaron Farmer, JBSA water conservation manager, said. "The goal for the Air Force is to reduce its total water use intensity by a total of 26 percent."

To do this, all JBSA locations have tapped into recycled water.

"We purchase recycled water from the Cibolo Creek Municipality Authority on JBSA-Randolph and from the San Antonio Water System on JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and JBSA-Lackland," Farmer said. "There's also onsite water recycling, which includes reusing water at vehicle wash racks and capturing rainwater or air conditioning condensate for irrigation use."

In addition, sticking to the JBSA Drought Management Plan, which is similar to the SAWS drought restrictions, helps limit water use at locations like Randolph, where 193 million gallons of water were pumped for residential, commercial and industrial use in 2012, Ruben Ramos, Randolph energy manager, said.

While the number seems high, "our water intensity (or gallons divided by square feet) is the second lowest compared to other bases in Air Education and Training Command," which is 37 gallons per square foot, Ramos said.

Currently, JBSA is in Stage II of water restrictions. The JBSA Drought Management Plan can be viewed at

Water-saving projects in blueprint stages across all JBSA locations are also in place to support the Air Force mandate.

The replacement of showerheads, toilets, urinals and sink faucets with more energy-efficient models is planned for 80 facilities at Lackland.

"The large fixture replacement project will save about 22 million gallons of water per year and pay for itself in two years, with annual savings of $150,000 after payback," Farmer said.

At Fort Sam Houston, an Energy Conservation Investment Program-reuse water project will substitute potable water with reuse water at cooling towers and for irrigation purposes, Farmer said.

Randolph is looking for an economical approach to apply water for irrigation in the area inside of the south taxiway, harvest rainwater on select buildings, construct sub-soil irrigation systems and collect condensate from heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment, Bruce Dschuden, JBSA resource efficiency manager, said.

While Mother Nature plays a part in reducing the amount of water used in larger, water-cooled HVAC systems and for irrigation, "most of water use is nondiscretionary, which means that we continue to use the same amount of water based on mission requirements regardless of the weather," Farmer said.

"Although it seems cooler than the previous year, the reality is that we had 6 percent less heating degree days this year than last year," Ramos added.
Heating degree days are a measurement that reflects the demand for energy needed to heat a building.

"Also, the amount of cooling degree days has been 6 percent higher than last year," Ramos added.

"This data shows us that this year's winter has been warmer, but longer."

While weather officials predict a cooler summer than last year, "we would need an extraordinarily cool summer to mitigate the drought," Dschuden said.

"Changing the 'culture' is the best bang for the buck," Farmer said. "If everyone on JBSA saved 1 gallon of water a day, we could save 30 million gallons per year."

Not letting water run during hand washing or tooth brushing, reducing shower times by one to two minutes and washing larger loads of clothes at once are some methods that can save hundreds of gallons of water per month.

"It's not just about taking shorter showers or turning off the water when we brush our teeth; it's also about quickly repairing leaks, reporting water waste and teaching each other and our children to use less," Farmer said. "We need our JBSA family and mission partners to help conserve water in any and every way they can."