Federal Facilities: Alternative Land Uses Could Save Water at Fallon Naval Air Station, Nevada

RCED/NSIAD-00-42 Published: Dec 10, 1999. Publicly Released: Dec 10, 1999.
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on alternative land uses that could save water at Fallon Naval Air Station, Nevada, focusing on: (1) the aviation safety and operational requirements for the runway protection zone at Fallon Naval Air Station (NAS); (2) the alternative land use strategies Fallon NAS identified in response to congressional direction and how it evaluated them; and (3) the land use strategies at five military facilities and two commercial airports that operate in similar environments.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of the Navy In light of the congressional concern over water consumption in this desert area as expressed in statute and in light of the techniques used at other desert air fields that are less water intensive, the Navy should consider these techniques for Fallon NAS. Specifically, the Navy should consider its earlier identified strategies and adopt specific actions that would achieve safety and operational requirements while reducing water use at the air station. It should consider adopting different strategies that recognize the distinction between areas within the runway protection zone and those beyond the zone. The results of the Navy's decision to stop irrigating 700 acres of previously irrigated land should be closely monitored to determine whether this strategy can be successfully applied to additional land at Fallon NAS.
Closed – Implemented
In 2000, NAS Fallon began a pilot program of removing the water rights and not irrigating 662 acres that are part of the Navy's Agriculture Outlease program. The irrigated pastures that are outside the runway protection zones will not be irrigated. The pilot program will consider operational safety, land degradation, cost, reduction in the groundwater recharge, and other long-term impacts.

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