Editor's note: This is the second in a four-part series focusing on energy awareness during the month of October in honor of Energy Awareness Month.

FORT RILEY, Kan. -- In recent months, there has been a lot of publicity regarding Fort Riley being picked as one of only six military installations to become a net-zero water use installation.

A net-zero water installation's definition is: "An installation that limits the consumption of freshwater resources and returns water back to the same watershed so not to deplete the groundwater and surface water resources of that region in quantity and quality over the course of a year."

"Simply put, or another way to look at it, is that when an installation uses a gallon of water, it finds a way to either conserve a gallon of water from somewhere else or it captures a gallon of water from an alternative water source. A true net-zero water approach is conservation to the fullest degree," said Joshua Pease, biological science technician, Conservation Department, Environmental Division, Directorate of Public Works.

According to Pease, the easiest and most cost-effective way to conserve water is through public education. Domestic use is the largest use of water.

"So when designing a water conservation program, people start, and then continue to focus on, getting people to re-think how they use water and try to get them to adjust their habits," Pease said. "It is a hard battle. Water in eastern Kansas has always been seen as 'unlimited.' We usually have abundant rainfall and are blessed with quite a bit of groundwater. So, just like most things in abundance, we take it for granted; however, it wouldn't take much in the scheme of things to put us in a hurt."

Pease said, however, western Kansas is experiencing what it is like to lose water.

"Things are very dry out there, and there is nothing that can be done," he said. "It's just a waiting game, so to speak, until it rains. I have heard it said that in the future, more wars will be over water than oil. Of course, nobody knows for sure, but it is true that when it comes down to it, we can find alternative sources for oil, but there is no substitute for fresh water."

While Fort Riley was only recently chosen, officials have been focusing on water conservation and quality for quite a while, Pease said.

For starters, all newly constructed buildings at Fort Riley are required to meet strict Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards and obtain a minimum rating of silver through that accreditation system.

"The LEED certification system is a third party, green building certification process where points are awarded when specific conservation practices are implemented in the building designs of a project," he said.

Examples include installing low-flow fixtures in sinks and showers; utilizing water-efficient toilets; installing water-efficient appliances; and numerous other water-conserving practices.

LEED rankings, from lowest to highest, are certified, silver, gold and platinum.

To date, Fort Riley has 20 certified silver buildings and two gold, with many more buildings being reviewed for certification, Pease said. In addition to new construction projects, updated building projects include the use of water-efficient fixtures and appliances as well.

The way Fort Riley washes its military vehicles was redesigned so once water is applied to the vehicles, it is captured, cleaned and reused, he said.

"Prior to this, vehicles were cleaned using potable water, and the water was lost after being used," Pease said. "Potable water is now only used to supplement the recycling lagoons in the event that they become low due to evaporative losses."

Another example of water conservation is a new waste water treatment plant being constructed in order to accommodate the influx of new and returning Soldiers.

"In addition to being more energy efficient, the effluent will meet the highest water quality standards issued by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment," Pease said. "The new treatment plant will also reuse its own water effluent for some cleaning and maintenance purposes, as well as to cool the equipment it uses in the treatment process, therefore greatly reducing its potable water consumption."

Capturing storm water has and will continue to aide in achieving net zero, he said.

"Therefore, Fort Riley has been designing storm water bioretention areas whenever possible," Pease said. "Previously, any rain water that hits a paved surface was directed into stormwater drains and was routed to a river, creek channel or drainage ditch. Bioretention areas are basically vegetated, low capacity, on-site holding ponds that allow water to be collected during a rain event."

Once the water is collected in these holding ponds, pollutants are removed by vegetation uptake, and the water is either transpired by the plants or it percolates through the soil and recharges local groundwater sources.

According to Pease, Fort Riley has begun educating the public about the net-zero water campaign and the importance of a cooperative approach to water conservation. Net-zero concepts have been incorporated into several environmental education programs required for Soldiers and civilians on post, as well as Fort Riley's new employee orientation.

The largest users of water are the Families who live on post in Picerne Military Housing, he said.

"Fort Riley is cooperating with Picerne Military Housing to educate their tenants of becoming water-use conscientious," Pease said. "Picerne builds its new construction homes with water-saving fixtures and appliances as well. They also recently began issuing water timers to residents that have newly sod or seeded yards so that efficient watering schedules can be utilized and water waste is reduced or eliminated."

Finally, a net-zero water working group has been established and comprised of representatives from several different divisions and tenants including DPW's master planning, environmental and engineering divisions, Medical Activity and Picerne.

"The purpose of the working group is to formulate new ideas for water conservation and implementation, promote and create educational awareness and foster working relationships within the installation," Pease said.

Page last updated Thu October 13th, 2011 at 17:38