AVTA Leads the Way with Water Conservation Efforts

Feb. 5, 2015

The Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) is well on its way to becoming a nationally recognized leader in the public transportation industry for its commitment to water conservation. California’s historic drought has prompted AVTA to take extreme measures to reduce its water consumption by 82 percent. In recent years, the design and implementation of innovative water conservation processes have played a key role in ensuring that AVTA’s operations are eco-friendly.

AVTA’s efforts at reducing water consumption have paid off in a big way, saving taxpayer dollars as well as water. Their annual water usage has dropped from 3.8 million gallons to 684,000 gallons per year, and their monthly water bill dropped from $5,000 to approximately $1,200. Earlier this year, the agency received a prestigious award from the Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District for its environmentally friendly efforts. As a recipient of the William J. “Pete” Knight AIRE Award, the agency was applauded by state and local officials for demonstrating environmental responsibility.

“AVTA not only leads the way in providing safe and reliable public transportation in our community, they also lead the way in water conservation, saving over three million gallons of potable water each year,” commented Robert E. Alvarado, Vice President of Palmdale Water District. “PWD appreciates the valley-wide benefit of more efficient water use by AVTA.”

In 2011, plans for a major construction project at AVTA were underway, and the transit agency broke ground on an $11 million Phase 2 expansion of the existing facility. It was during the beginning stages of construction that AVTA realized how much water was being used in everyday operations. Officials from the Los Angeles County Industrial Waste Water Division notified AVTA that an Industrial Waste Water Permit, at a staggering $219,000 fee per year, could be required, due to the fact that the agency was consuming 3.8 million gallons of water annually. The exorbitant cost and the agency’s commitment to the environment prompted AVTA’s staff to take immediate action to drastically reduce its water usage.

To eliminate the need for a permit, AVTA had to reduce its water consumption to less than one million gallons annually. A daunting challenge, to be sure, but the AVTA Fleet Maintenance team, led by Manager Mark Perry, was equal to the task. They began by analyzing the facility operations that used the most water, and found that one of the major areas was bus washing.

Perry and his staff first reduced the frequency of washing buses from daily to weekly, and used just 40 gallons per bus wash as opposed to 400 gallons which they had been consuming previously. This effort alone reduced water consumption by 68 percent. Perry then worked with the manufacturer of the bus washing equipment to design a water recycling system. The improved system catches and funnels used water from eight of nine wash stations through a series of filtration and water treatment components, and then stores it in a holding tank for future washes.

Another area Perry examined was the facility landscaping. Approximately one acre of the 18-acre AVTA site was landscaped, but at that time the landscape consisted of grass and nonnative plants, and took 23,000 gallons of water annually to maintain a healthy appearance.

The maintenance staff replaced the existing landscaping with a combination of xeriscaping and vegetation native to the high desert climate, which needed little watering beyond normal rainfall. Additionally, all domestic plumbing fixtures within the facility were converted to low-flow.

Each of these measures are representative of a greater shift to more sustainable practices in the transportation industry. “A well-designed transit facility has the potential to greatly influence its community,” remarked AVTA Board Chairman Norm Hickling. “AVTA will continue to implement environmentally sound strategies that are in the best interest of the residents we serve.”