Water conservation: Another pillar of energy efficiency

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alex Martinez
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
It all began with a few base members waiting for their morning cup of joe. These individuals knew something wasn't right when it took about two hours for a coffee maker to brew coffee. After further investigation, they realized the problem was the water used to make the coffee. It was such hard water, it caused a severe build-up of mineral deposits on the heating element of the machine. Something had to be done, and fortunately for the patient coffee drinkers, they had the power to do something about it.

"The water did a lot of damage, so we realized if it was doing damage to a coffee machine, imagine all the pipes and water heaters this was happening to," said Jim Brendlinger, Vinnell-Brown and Root Director of Civil Engineering.

VBR is the base's maintenance civilian contracting company.

Throughout the years, hard water conditions have lead the causes of accelerated wear and tear on base items such as air conditioners, water heaters, piping, dish washers and anything else that uses or processes water. And many of those water main breaks on base - blame the water running through them. On average, 22 water line breaks are reported each month.

Because of the power it takes to process water, water conservation is equally important to an energy efficiency program as energy conservation.

"We knew the base could do so much more to save water and energy," Mr. Brendlinger said. "We help control the energy programs here and we can make them better because that's what we're here to do."

Not only did the VBR members want to do something about it, they had to. Several federal and organizational mandates over recent years require action from bases throughout the Department of Defense to reduce energy and water consumption. More specifically, Incirlik mapped out a plan to reduce water consumption 16 percent by 2015 with a baseline of 774,830 kgal (1,000 gallons) of water consumed in 2007. That coincides with the base's goal of a 30 percent reduction in energy use with a baseline of 69 MBTU per KSF (1 million British thermal units per 1,000 square feet) in 2003.

"Energy and water conservation saves the Air Force millions of dollars, and Incirlik will keep working hard at its programs to do its part," said Tom Carneal, VBR Deputy Director of Civil Engineering.

Several Incirlik projects are in the works to contribute to the base's goal of doing its part.

The first project is a waste water reuse irrigation system at the Hodja Lakes Golf Course. Currently the base uses potable water from on and off base. The project reuses clear, non-sewage water to keep its grass green. The cost of the project is $1.5 million, however, it's estimated to save about $377,000 a year, paying for itself after four years.

The second project is the construction of a new water treatment plant that will significantly soften the water. Soft water is water that contains low levels of mineral salts such as calcium and magnesium. Such minerals can cause build-up overtime. The cost of the project is $1.15 million and the estimated savings is about $640,000 a year.

With soft water flowing through the base system, the base will experience a dramatic reduction in damage to its infrastructure. For example, water heaters currently installed throughout the base have a life span of about 18-24 months. Corrosion resulting from the hard the water shortens life spans. Softer water will allow the heaters to last for several years, sparing the 39th Air Base Wing thousands of dollars in maintenance and new units. Soft water also reduces the amount of nitrates in the water.

Due to the construction of the treatment plant, a base-wide water outage is scheduled from 9 p.m. Aug. 22 through 7 a.m. Aug. 23.

A third and more ambitious project that's pending award is the installation of a solar energy system that will heat water in several buildings around base. This will initially include the Hodja Inn, all U.S. military dormitories, dining facility, fitness center and the base pool. Solar water heating systems will be installed on rooftops and will include storage tanks and solar collectors. The way it works is water will be pumped through the collectors where it is heated up. On sunny, hot days, the water will be heated at no cost because the heating energy will be from the sun. The existing hot water boilers will be "back-ups" for cloudy and cooler days.
"It's extremely important to reduce the amount of water and energy used," said Mr. Brendlinger. "If we don't do our part and save the Air Force money, that wasted money can't be used for other mission essential tools."

Although all these projects began over a coffee machine, it opened a can of worms, and revealed how much the base can do to make a difference.

"The base has a good reputation when it comes to energy and water conservation," Mr. Carneal said. "We submit requests for projects that are very effective, and we follow through with good results. That's what we'll continue to do."