Fort Bliss, TX (KTSM) — The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recognized Fort Bliss National Cemetery with the state’s highest environmental honor, the 2013 Texas Environmental Excellence Award in the Water Conservation at the TCEQ Environmental Trade Fair and Conference at the Austin Convention Center, May 1.
“Being recognized with The Texas Environmental Excellence Award for 2013 is an honor for both Fort Bliss National Cemetery and the National Cemetery Administration,” said Andrew D. Matthews, director, Fort Bliss National Cemetery.
With only about 7 inches of rain a year in a desert climate it is difficult to maintain a lush, green lawn. Fort Bliss National Cemetery has attempted for decades to provide an ideal setting for the final resting place for approximately 50,000 veterans, but still had patches of dead grass throughout the cemetery.
“Over time it became obvious that the cemetery did not have access to a sufficient amount of water to maintain the turf to NCA’s national shrine standards,” said Matthews. “In choosing to honor our veterans and families with an environmental friendly water-wise landscape allows us to keep our promise to provide a fitting tribute to the service and sacrifice of veterans, families and the nation.”
By using native and drought-tolerant landscaping to replace the nearly 60 acres of turf grass, officials used decomposed granite surfacing materials and drought-resistant plants, trees, and shrubs irrigated with an efficient system.
“The cemetery saves an estimated $400,000 a year as a result of the water-wise landscape environment,” said Matthews. “The savings are from reduced water, labor, fertilizer and pesticide costs.”
Fort Bliss National Cemetery has utilized the time savings in maintenance and repair of the turf, irrigation functions for the cemetery, and general grounds maintenance, said Matthews.
With the new landscaping, the cemetery has decreased water usage by 90 percent, or 56 million gallons, and cut energy use by 47 percent through reduced pumping. Workers are now able to spend more time concentrating on the needs of the veterans and their family members.
“We are able to focus on burying our veterans with dignity and compassion and help the community recognize the service and sacrifice of those who have given so much,” said Matthews. “We are honored to provide a beautiful, final resting place for our nation’s heroes and proud to be a partner with Fort Bliss and all the service men and women stationed here.”