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Base feels effects of California drought

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Because of consecutive abnormally arid months, Californians are searching for relief and making water conservation a top priority.

The combination of this serious drought and current Air Force financial constraints has made efficient water usage on Vandenberg AFB a necessity.

An Air Force Space Command memorandum on watering practices, released in June 2013, states, "In the current fiscal environment of sequestration, AFSPC must reexamine our current processes, practices and activities and develop a "new normal" level of operations and support. We simply cannot keep our bases looking pristine while we furlough our civilian personnel and cut mission accounts."

As a result of this policy, areas throughout the installation, to include Marshallia Ranch Golf Course, have experienced dryer than usual grassland.

The memorandum continues, "Effective immediately, bases should assess all areas currently under irrigation with an eye to minimizing water use. Our 'new normal' accepts that grass may not be as green or as well manicured in order to conserve resources."

Although the severity of California's current drought is straining resources harder than before, government entities have been encouraged to become more water and energy-efficient for years.

Presidential Executive Order 13423, Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management, was signed on January 24, 2007, to strengthen key goals for the Federal Government. It mandates that Federal agencies reduce water intensity (gallons per square foot) by two percent each year through FY 2015 for a total of 16 percent based on water consumption in FY 2007. This Executive Oder, along with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, has mandated organizations like VAFB maximize and maintain energy and water conservation practices wherever feasible.

"Executive order 13514, issued on 8 Oct 2009, extended the water conservation mandates established in Executive Order 13423 through 2020 for a total of 26 percent," said Maj. Casey Bartholomew, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron Operations Flight commander. "VAFB has exceeded these goals through a combination of changes in our water system operation, reductions in irrigation, facility improvements and capital upgrades to the base-wide water distribution system. Thus far, we have been fairly successful in this venture, reducing total water consumption on-base by nearly 35 percent."

For VAFB leaders, conservation means more than simply meeting the requirements of higher-level directives - it is a responsibility.

"As conscientious stewards of our natural resources and good neighbors in the California community, we strive to conserve as much water as possible," said Bartholomew. "This is in part due to a desire to preserve natural resources for future use, but also to enable the state to meet ever-increasing water demands especially in times of reduced supply, such as now."