HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The 49th Civil Engineer Squadron fixed one of its off-base wells on July 1, 2020, near Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.
“I would say plenty of people on base don’t even know where their water comes from,” said Luke Hillebrand, 49th CES water fuel system operator supervisor.
Holloman has very sustainable water because it pulls from multiple areas, miles apart, easing the load on the system.
Most of the wells that are spread out run into a tank called the San Andreas Tank. The San Andreas Tank gets pumped to another tank and from there the water is sent straight to base.
Holloman didn’t always run strictly off of ground water.
“We’ve been running off of ground water for 8 years now, since the Little Bear Fire in 2012,” Hillebrand said. “We have been completely sustainable without Bonita Lake, but we hope to get it back up and running by 2022.”
The 49th CES has plans to build more wells in the far future to help support the base.
The wells off base produce nearly one million gallons of water that Holloman uses on a daily-basis, however not all of the wells are constantly running.
“We have a system in the tanks to run a few wells at a time until we reach a certain water level in them before stopping,” said Hillebrand. “Once the water in the tank drops past a certain point, we run different wells until it fills up.”
Monsoon season began June 15, and that means that the 49th CES is preparing for trouble, and needs as many wells up and running as possible.
“You get a big enough storm and its possible to lose access the road leading up to some of these wells for a couple weeks,” Hillebrand said. “I like to keep as many wells active before the big storms start coming in because of that possibility.”
In preparation for the storms, Hillebrand began maintenance on the pump at the Escondido Well.
esaid they had to pull a part out of the well from the ground, in order to accomplish maintenance on a couple pinched wires.
The squadron waited a day for the right parts to fix the wires, and then quickly brought the well back online; pumping 1,000 gallons-per-minute back into the system.
“It’s liquid gold,” said Alejandro Chacon, 49th CES, water fuel system operator. “Battles have been fought over water out here in the desert, it is super valuable.”
To get clean valuable water, the squadron needs to run tests from the wells to make sure they’re clean.
“The thing with ground water is once you run tests on it once, and find out the water is clean, the likely hood of the aquafer getting dirty after that is very small because it’s all underground,” said Chacon.
The 49th CES isn’t the only agency that test the wells. The state of New Mexico runs the tests on the wells to make sure they are within regulation and also to test the sustainability of each well.
“We have two monitoring wells that are specifically checked by the state,” Hillebrand said. “They have very little fluctuation in water, were talking about maybe an inch or two at max and sometimes the water level rises.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Holloman’s water supply you can find the information under Holloman’s environmental information page.