Navy takes drought se­ri­ously

In re­sponse to gover­nor’s or­der, rear ad­mi­ral or­ders 925-mil­lion-gallon wa­ter re­duc­tion.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Tony Perry tony.perry@latimes.com Twit­ter: @latsandiego

SAN DIEGO — With its red and green syn­thetic turf, De­stroyer Field at Sur­face War­rior Park is meant to re­duce wa­ter use at Naval Base San Diego. The soft­ball field needs oc­ca­sion­ally to be combed, but not wa­tered or mowed.

De­stroyer Field rep­re­sents the fu­ture in drought­stricken Cal­i­for­nia, where grassy play­ing fields may seem a wa­ter-guz­zling ex­trav­a­gance.

For the Navy, the fu­ture ar­rived in 2008 when then­Pres­i­dent Bush signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der man­dat­ing wa­ter re­duc­tion by fed­eral agen­cies. The or­der was ex­panded by Pres­i­dent Obama in March.

Since 2007, wa­ter use has been re­duced by 23% at the nine bases in Cal­i­for­nia and one in Ne­vada that are man­aged by an ad­mi­ral and other of­fi­cials at Navy Re­gion South­west, with head­quar­ters on the San Diego wa­ter­front.

At Naval Base San Diego, the most pop­u­lous of the 10 bases, some 1.5 mil­lion square feet of land­scap­ing was re­placed by drought-re­sis­tant plants or ar­ti­fi­cial turf, or just al­lowed to turn brown.

But the state’s re­cent cut­back or­ders — as nu­mer­ous cities, in­clud­ing San Diego, have learned — do not take into ac­count past con­ser­va­tion mea­sures.

In re­sponse to the gover­nor’s or­der, Rear Adm. Pa­trick Lorge, com­man­der of Re­gion South­west, has or­dered a re­duc­tion of 925 mil­lion gal­lons a year by 2020. He is not swayed by sub­or­di­nates telling him it can­not be done.

“I don’t care what we’ve done in the past,” he said, “we still have a task to do bet­ter.”

Even with the 23% re­duc­tion since 2007, the Re­gion South­west bases use 3.7 bil­lion gal­lons of potable wa­ter an­nu­ally. The two largest con­sumers are Naval Base San Diego and Naval Base Coron­ado, each us­ing about 550 mil­lion gal­lons; the small­est is Naval Sup­port Ac­tiv­ity Monterey at 20 mil­lion.

For Navy Re­gion South­west, the tim­ing of the gover­nor’s or­der is par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing.

Un­der what the Depart­ment of De­fense is call­ing a “Re­bal­ance to the Pa­cific,” nearly all the re­gion’s bases are look­ing at quick and dra­matic growth. That means more ships, he­li­copters, sailors and civil­ian em­ploy­ees to San Diego, a big­ger train­ing fa­cil­ity for more SEALs in Coron­ado, a shore oper­a­tions cen­ter and drones and Coast Guard as­sets to the base in Ven­tura County.

Also, a fighter squadron to the air sta­tion at Le­moore, new fa­cil­i­ties at the Seal Beach weapons sta­tion to make it eas­ier to load am­mu­ni­tion, an in­door marks­man­ship range on Coron­ado’s Sil­ver Strand, and more, all of which will re­quire wa­ter.

“I’m go­ing to be bring­ing up­wards of 20,000 peo­ple who will be stress­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s al­ready frag­ile wa­ter sys­tem,” Lorge said.

The growth is all to be ac­com­plished, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial plan­ning doc­u­ment, while con­tin­u­ing to “sup­port wa­ter sus­tain­abil­ity.”

Last week, the Gover­nor’s Mil­i­tary Coun­cil, chaired by for­mer con­gress­woman and State Depart­ment ex­ec­u­tive Ellen Tauscher, warned that the state should “help bases main­tain re­li­able wa­ter sup­plies,” lest fu­ture ex­pan­sion be cur­tailed.

“The im­por­tance of wa­ter se­cu­rity has been high- lighted by Pen­tagon lead­ers amidst the on­go­ing drought in Cal­i­for­nia,” the re­port said.

De­stroyer Field, built in 2010, is the model for other fields, in­clud­ing the re­cently com­pleted soc­cer and soft­ball fields at North Is­land Naval Air Sta­tion. Low-flow shower heads, like those in a new seven-story bar­racks, are re­quired in all new con­struc­tion. Bright green ar­ti­fi­cial turf re­placed grass out­side the nearby chow hall.

A video, in­clud­ing a nonon­sense mes­sage from the ad­mi­ral, is be­ing shot to make sure all ranks get the mes­sage. Plan­ners are eye­ing the re­main­ing 1.5 mil­lion square feet of land­scap­ing to see how much can be re­moved or mod­i­fied. Land­scape ir­ri­ga­tion con­sumes 18% of the bases’ wa­ter use.

“We are cur­rently iden­ti­fy­ing po­ten­tial projects, which we ex­pect will in­clude many land­scape projects,” said Bernard Lind­sey, the re­gion’s energy man­ager. Spot me­ters are also be­ing in­stalled to de­tect leaks or over use, in real-time.

Naval Base San Diego gets wa­ter from the city of San Diego and the Chula Vista-based Sweet­wa­ter Au­thor­ity, with no dis­count for be­ing mil­i­tary.

When San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer sum­moned of­fi­cials from the city’s 10 big­gest gov­ern­men­tal wa­ter con­sumers for a meet­ing at City Hall, the Navy was on the list, just be­hind the city of San Diego and ahead of UC San Diego, Cal­trans and the San Diego school dis­trict.

“We’re part of the com­mu­nity, we can’t be an is­land,” Lorge said. “We need to lace on our boot­straps and take a tug on the oar.”

Glenn Koenig Los An­ge­les Times

DEC­O­RA­TIVE ROCKS and ar­ti­fi­cial turf re­place grass and plants at the Mercer Hall Gal­ley at the Naval Base San Diego, to ad­here to or­ders of a 925-mil­lion-gallon wa­ter re­duc­tion made by Rear Adm. Pa­trick Lorge.

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