By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
When Bell County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 implemented the first stage of its drought contingency plan in mid-August, Fort Hood was already in compliance.
For at least the last five years, the post has automatically implemented Stage 1 restrictions on water use from April 1 to Oct. 1.
Although it's not an Army-wide policy, the move aligns with broader Defense Department energy- and waste-reduction guidelines and "is just the right thing to do," said Steve Burrow, chief of environmental programs in Fort Hood Department of Public Works.
"(Installations) are mandated through Army regulations or executive orders that we need to meet certain conservation thresholds," Burrow said. "Energy's a huge item, and water falls within the energy arena."
An 2009 executive order requires federal agencies to reduce water potable consumption by 2 percent each year through 2020.
The post consumes upward of 6 million gallons each day, depending on the season.
Burros said this summer, his 11th at the installation, has been the worst he's seen in terms of drought.
Many of the young trees planted since the post became a Tree City USA seven years ago are taking the brunt of the dry weather conditions.
But, he noted, the post has gotten better at enforcing the Stage 1 water restrictions, while residents have become more aware.
"We've gotten a lot of calls from folks who say, 'Hey, the person down the block is watering this," Burrow said. "We seem to have a lot more eyes out there."
Stage 1 water restrictions call for a 5 percent reduction in voluntary daily water use, including not using potable water for outdoor cleaning, and not watering landscaping or holding organizational car washes between 1 and 5 p.m.
Burrow said as long as Bell County remains at Stage 1, so will Fort Hood - likely past October.
Like many of the communities surrounding Fort Hood, the post gets its water from the Brazos River Authority, which includes Belton Lake.
Other projects at Fort Hood aim to reduce water usage throughout the year. Burrow said waterless urinals and low-flow toilets are installed at several locations across post.
"They're not widespread, just at some facilities," he said. "We're primarily playing around, testing out things to do on a larger scale more than anything."
Fort Hood's newest water conservation effort, a system that pumps non-potable water from a small lake near the on-post Courses at Clear Creek golf facility into the course's irrigation pond, is now in the test phase.
Fort Hood's directorates of Public Works and Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation began working on the project in February.
Randy Doyle, supervisor of the Public Works Environmental Support Team, said the Fort Hood golf course "historically used potable water to refill its irrigation pond and water the entire 27 holes of golf." The source lake near the course is referred to as Landfill Lake.
The "green" pump project is expected to show a return on investment within four years, Doyle said.
A directorate spokesperson declined to say how much the system cost. A 2009 brief on the project says Fort Hood's non-potable watering system could be exported to other military golf courses if its proves successful.
For now, Doyle said, "The green initiative reduces reliance on potable water and shows Fort Hood's commitment to protecting our natural resources."
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.
What people are saying at KDHNews.com
Melissa: Ft. Hood's water saving initiatives are great except that there isn't much oversight. It doesn't do any good to implement a plan when there are people who don't care and aren't supervised. I was in the Post Exchange garden center two days ago and found the ground covered with water, water flowing down the drain because someone had been watering and was apparently called away and left the water spraying into the air, watering nothing except the concrete floor and not one employee in the area.
Green Lawns - Shame!: This is laughable. Drive around Fort Hood and look at all the bright green lawns. A friend who lives on post, in senior enlisted housing, took a picture one evening at 6:00 p.m. All you could see was sprinklers running, and water just gushing down the streets because nobody was paying attention. When we run out of water, are those people going to do anything but look at their green grass? If Fort Hood wanted to be real about this, they would have curtailed lawn watering over a month ago, with penalties.
Nick: What is sad is the fact that so many people will be charged for their dead lawns once they try and move out of housing. It has already happened. That is why you have so many "green" lawns in post housing. Oh, and the community centers are the worst when it comes to conserving...their sprinklers are on all night long, with water running down the streets.
Jennifer: Everyone is right, some residents of Fort Hood are watering their lawns around the clock, including my neighbor who waters her lawn around the clock except, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., which is the only time her water is off. The residents that do this are rewarded while the rest of us who have observed the drought conditions have been penalized.