Water Conservation: Every Drop Counts!

  • Published
  • By 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron
As employees of the United States Air Force, our livelihoods are funded by taxpayers' dollars. Because of this, we are expected to be good stewards of our resources. And regardless of this, it's simply the right thing to do.

One resource we in the Florida Panhandle sometimes take for granted, especially in the hot summer months, is water.

The Northwest Florida Water Management District, whose mission is to make sure the area has enough water for reasonable and beneficial purposes and to protect the natural water systems, has declared the panhandle a water conservation area because of extensive development that has taken place in the coastal areas of Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties, and because of significant withdrawals of ground water that have occurred.

Most of our water supply comes from ground water.

Because of this water conservation status, NWFWMD permits Hurlburt Field one million gallons of potable water usage per day.

"Historically, Hurlburt has had trouble staying under this threshold, especially when we experience particularly dry summers," said Mr. Alan Cox, utilities foreman in the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron's Operations Flight.

When the base reaches a usage rate of 800,000 gallons per day or greater, leadership implements water conservation measures immediately. These mandatory measures, outlined in the base's Water Conservation Policy, consist of three stages of water conservation measures, in addition to our normal day-to-day conservation measures.

The base can also implement these water conservation measures if there are
operational problems with the production system.

The three stages usually start at Stage 1 and work up to Stage 3. However, they don't always necessarily have to go in numerical sequence.

"If there is a major problem with the system, we could go straight to Stage 3," said Mr. Cox.

Each stage includes more and more restrictive water usage requirements.

The base relies on the professional judgment of the water system experts in the 1st SOCES to effectively implement Hurlburt's Water Conservation Policy. However, water conservation begins at the lowest level, and education is key to managing and taking good care of that valuable resource.

The following are simple tips to follow every day: 

Indoor Use:
· Turn off the faucet! Don't let the water run while doing the dishes, brushing your teeth, shaving or washing your face and hands.
· Take shorter showers. You can save about five to seven gallons for every minute saved in the shower.
· Close your tub drain before turning on the water.
· Fill your bathtub only halfway.
· Never use your toilet as a wastebasket.
· Run the dishwasher only when full.
· Wash vegetables and fruit in a basin.
· Run your garbage disposal only when necessary.
· Run the washing machine only when full and adjust the water level setting carefully.
· Look and listen for leaks. Check for toilet leaks by adding food coloring to the tank. If the tank is leaking, color will appear in the toilet bowl within 30 minutes. Flush as soon as test is done because the food coloring may stain the tank.
· Store drinking water in the refrigerator. Don't let the tap run while you are waiting for cool water. 

Outdoor Use:
· Don't over-water your lawn. As a general rule, lawns only need watering every five to seven days in the summer, and every 10 to 14 days in the winter. To determine if your lawn needs to be watered, simply walk across the grass. If you leave footprints, it's time to water.
· Only water your grass between 0600-1000 or 1800-2200, and avoid watering on windy days. Otherwise, much of the water used can simply evaporate between the sprinkler and the grass.
· Water in several short sessions rather than one long one. Three 10-minute sessions spaced 30 minutes to an hour apart will allow your lawn to better absorb moisture than one straight 30 minute session.
· To avoid excessive evaporation, use a sprinkler that produces large drops of water, rather than a fine mist. Sprinklers that send droplets out on a low angle also help control evaporation. Adjust sprinkler heads as necessary to avoid waste, runoff and ensure proper coverage.
· Don't allow sprinklers to water your street, driveway or sidewalk. Position them so water lands on the lawn and shrubs, and not on paved areas.
· Raise the lawn mower blade; it encourages grass roots to grow deeper and retain more water. (St. Augustine and Bahia should be cut at a height of three to four inches, and Centipede and Bermuda should be cut at a height of one and a half to two and a half inches.) A sharp blade produces a cleaner cut that heals more quickly and loses less water.
· Grass-cycle. Grass clippings are 90 percent water, so leave them on your lawn and you can water less and have a healthier lawn without any additional work.
· Do not hose down your driveway or sidewalk. Use a broom to clean leaves and other debris from these areas.
· Do not leave sprinklers or hoses unattended. A garden hose can pour out 600 gallons or more in only a few hours. Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn the sprinklers off.
· Avoid purchasing recreational water toys which require a constant stream of water. 

New Lawns:
· Lightly water one or two times a day. As sod becomes established and roots penetrate and grow in the soil, gradually reduce the frequency of watering but wet the soil deeper.
· Do not over-saturate the soil because that will inhibit sod roots from growing into the soil. 

General Water Saving Tips:
· Be aware of, and follow the water conservation policy in effect at Hurlburt Field. Don't assume, even if you get your water from a sand-and-gravel well, that you need not observe good water use rules.
· Patronize businesses which practice and promote water conservation.
· Report all significant water losses (broken pipes, open hydrants, errant sprinklers etc.).
· Conserve water because it's the right thing to do. Don't waste water just because someone else is footing the bill.
· Try to do one thing each day that will result in saving water. Don't worry if the savings are minimal, because every drop counts!