By Robin Hibler Energy Conservation Manager, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Directorate of Public WorksNovember 3, 2009
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - Often when people hear the word "conservation," they think, "What do I have to give up'
Many conservation efforts don't require us to give up anything, just a change in how we do things.
For example, do you need the light on if you are not in the room' Turn it off when you walk out, even if you will only be gone for 15 minutes, which saves a small amount of electricity.
Multiply this action by the many times this very simple action can take place both in our work spaces and in Army Hawaii Family Housing and the numbers can add up quickly.
Water conservation works in the same way. Most of us have heard, "Turn the water off when you are brushing your teeth."
You think, "That doesn't save very much water." And you are correct; the savings are small. But multiply that by the number of Soldiers and family members on base, and you get a substantial number.
Did you really need that water running while you brushed your teeth' No. So you didn't give anything up; you simply changed how you did things a little.
Residential water use includes everything you use water for at home. What do you think uses the most' Your washing machine' Showers' Dishwasher'
Actually, outdoor water use counts for about 50 percent of the average single family home water use. Most is attributed to landscape watering.
A small savings in landscape watering can add up quickly when you have roughly 5,000 single family homes, as well as plenty of work area irrigation.
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii policy states no landscape can be watered between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The reason is evaporation. About 50-70 percent of water being sprayed during the hotter time of the day evaporates before it can soak into the ground.
If it is a nice sunny Hawaii day with good trade winds blowing, evaporation rates can reach 80-90 percent - a lot of water being wasted for little benefit.
The best time to water is dusk to a couple hours before sunrise, giving the water time to soak in before the sun gets to it.
Misinformation about watering landscape abounds. For example, the one about grass getting burned on a good sunny day is not true. Grass does react to the sun, but if the grass is watered adequately at night, the sun will not hurt it during a sunny day.
How much water is "adequate'" The answer is complicated and far beyond the intent of this article, but I'll share some basic information.
The surface of the soil does not always need to be moist. Grass roots extend 6-8 inches down. Overwatering the grass actually encourages the roots to stay shallow and makes an overall weaker plant, which is true of most plants.
Occasionally stressing the plant makes the roots grow deeper and strengthens the plant. A little stressing makes the plant more likely to survive, resist disease and weeds and look good.
Around our installation's buildings, installed irrigation systems are set to run at night, so the evaporation issue is negligent. However, multiple times during 2008, several landscape areas were obviously overwatered and multiple broken sprinkler heads were noted.
The Directorate of Public Works (DPW) worked to correct these issues, giving the landscape a more reasonable amount of water that maintains the health of the landscape. This simple change saved roughly 20 million gallons of water during the course of 2009.
A team effort is needed to continue to maintain this level of savings, so if you see an area that is being overwatered, a broken sprinkler head, or other problem with an irrigation system, call it in to the DPW service request desk at 808-656-1275.
Some basic information like location and what the problem is will be needed, but the call should be a mostly painless process, taking only a couple minutes of your time to aid our conservation efforts.