Cannon policies protect the water supply

Carla Givens

An article recently published in the Clovis News Journal quoted a local citizen who expressed concern that Cannon Air Force Base is not participating in water conservation efforts. For years, water use has undoubtedly been one of the most polarizing issues in New Mexico and prolonged drought has made the issue yet more contentious. Recognizing the importance of water to eastern New Mexicans, Cannon implements several water conservation initiatives.
Xeriscaping is a landscaping concept conceived to save water. Cannon has developed a long-term landscaping plan designed to ensure continued improvements in water conservation through xeriscaping. This landscaping mindset focuses on the use of designs that mix healthy amounts of non-living materials, such as rock and bark, with sparing use of plants native to desert and arid climates. This proven method of water conservation has been highly encouraged at Cannon since 1997 and has been mandatory for all landscaping projects since 1999.
The most recent examples of Xeriscaping at Cannon include the replacement of a large portion of the existing, water-intensive landscaping at the wing headquarters with a xeriscaped design. This project displays the high-level support given by 27th Fighter Wing leadership to water conservation efforts. Two larger landscaping projects were undertaken recently in base housing and at the base entrance to reduce the amount of irrigation required in these areas.
Cannon’s Whispering Winds Golf Course remains green thanks to the water-conserving concept incorporated in the construction of the wastewater treatment plant. Built in 1998, the wastewater plant was designed so treated effluent could be used for irrigation of the golf course. To date, more than 180 million gallons of wastewater have been used to irrigate recreational facilities, including the base golf course, thus decreasing the reliance on diminishing groundwater resources. On average, during 2002, 38 percent of this wastewater effluent was re-used for irrigation, approaching nearly 50 percent re-use during peak summer months.
Cannon has its own wells to supply the water needs for the base. This means the base does not impact the Clovis water supply infrastructure (tanks, pipes, etc.) and does not contribute to the high demand on the Clovis system in the summer months.
Water conservation efforts are also evident in the workplace and homes of Cannon’s residents. In 1999, the wing commander issued a policy letter regarding lawn watering in military family housing areas. The policy establishes no-watering hours during the heat of the day to prevent excessive evaporation and efficiently use water resources. It allows watering by house number on designated days in order to even out the demand on Cannon’s water supply. The policy also provides guidelines from local landscaping companies on the recommended watering depth and duration.
Instances of excessive water use or non-adherence to base policy can be cause to notify the offender’s commander. Such instances are rare, but adherence to the policy is quickly met. Low-water consumption plumbing fixtures (showerheads and commodes) are specified when facility construction or renovation occurs.
Cannon is playing an active part in the Clovis Water Conservation Committee, which was just established, and is looking at similar water conservations techniques. The base continues to be a good steward of New Mexico’s natural resources and is always searching for ways to protect and conserve the state’s vital water supply.

Carla Givens is solid waste manager for Cannon Air Force Base. Cannon’s Don White (environmental chief), Sam Pyeatt (deputy base civil engineer), Col. Lisa Firmin and Lt. Col. John C. Bower contributed to this report.