CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- In the midst of water shortages caused by a severe drought, Marine Corps Installations West (MCIWEST) is working to conserve water by designing and implementing new technologies, auditing existing water-use systems, and changing end-user behaviors to reduce water waste. In FY15, Marine Corps bases and stations used about 6.6 billion gallons of water, with MCIWEST accounting for 2.2 billion of those – an appropriate 33 percent.
Water is crucial to the Marine Corps as it is a critical component to mission readiness both on base and on the battlefield. Installations need water for human use, for cooling buildings, for cooling equipment, and for fire-fighting activities, among others, and each and every Marine needs assured and adequate supplies of water while deployed.
Smart water use is also beneficial to the bottom line. With each Marine using between 75 and 100 gallons of water every day, the Marine Corps spends nearly $40 million to obtain and treat water each year – the price of about 180 HMMWVs. Furthermore, reducing water use will not only decrease water costs, but also energy costs. Energy is used in every part of the commercial water cycle, from initial and wastewater treatment, to distribution, to use, which includes heating and pressurizing. With each gallon of water used, energy is also used, which is why Marine Corps leadership considers water to be a part of the Energy Ethos, and includes water-related duties for Unit Energy Managers (UEMs).
In May 2015, MCIWEST Commanding General, BGen Edward Banta, issued policy to reduce non-mission-critical water use at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Pendleton, in response to the region’s water concerns. Per BGen Banta, “as California experiences a sustained period of historic drought… [we] continue to implement all necessary policies, procedures, and projects to meet water use reduction mandates.” As a result, consumption at MCB Camp Pendleton has decreased steadily over the course of the past year, reaching below 1 billion gallons consumed annually for the first time since 2013.
Just 30 miles south of MCB Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar has taken drastic measures to increase its water efficiency, resulting in significant water savings. In 2015, MCAS Miramar created a water conservation board with top leaders from the community including Marine Corps Community Services, the Fire Department, and the tenant commands aboard the air station. Led by MCAS Miramar Public Works Officer, LCDR Rich Pocholski, the committee spearheaded efforts to reach out to all departments across the installation and reduce water use.
These efforts included a project to retrofit vehicle and aircraft wash racks to become recycled water systems (saving 5.5 million gallons annually), and a project to expand a reclaimed water system to reduce potable water use in irrigation (saving 12 million gallons annually). The station also updated its smart irrigation control system, Calsense, to allow for more efficient watering schedules and automatic shut downs of water following rainfall or when pipe breaks occur.
In just one year, these initiatives allowed MCAS Miramar to reduce its water use by 17 percent, saving more than 49 million gallons of water and $744,093. "The value of saving the water far exceeds the economic savings, but we are pleased that we have been able to focus on large water conservation projects and justify nearly six million dollars of effort,” said Mick Wasco, MCAS Miramar Installation Energy Manager. “We are excited about our continued expansion of use of reclaimed water as well as other conservation efforts in the future. These water conservation efforts not only ensure mission readiness, but translate to the well-being of our families, community, and the state of California.”