Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort In Death Valley Develops Programs To Minimize Environmental Impact
The Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort in Death Valley National Park has enacted a series of environmental initiatives designed to minimize the impact of its operations and of its guests. The resort has put in place programs to reduce water usage, generate electricity and purchase and serve sustainable cuisine.
The single-biggest development undertaken by Furnace Creek operator Xanterra Parks & Resorts has been the installation of a five-acre, one megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic (PV) system. The system went active in June 2008 and now generates more than one-third of the total annual electricity needs of Xanterra’s Death Valley operations, including the historic Furnace Creek Inn, Furnace Creek Ranch, Furnace Creek Golf Course, employee offices and housing.
In an area as hot and dry as Death Valley, balancing water usage with conservation requires significant planning. Furnace Creek and its namesake resort exist in their location because natural spring water flows from nearby mountain ranges to create an oasis. By routing the water from one point to others, Xanterra’s goal is to use the same molecules of water for several purposes. The spring-fed water is first used at the Furnace Creek Inn to irrigate gardens and supply the swimming pool which was designed with a flow-through system that minimizes chemical use. That water then continues downhill to the Furnace Creek Ranch where it fills the ponds on the golf course, providing habitat for local and migratory wildlife. The water in the ponds then irrigates the golf course.
“We do receive questions about water usage in the middle of the driest area of the continent,” said Joel Southall, director of environmental health and safety for Xanterra’s Death Valley operations. “Below ground, however, we are blessed with huge groundwater reserves that we use efficiently with a gravity-fed flow that eliminates the need for most chemical treatments and electrical pumps.”
The resort’s sustainable cuisine program stresses the best methods for producing items as well purchasing foods and beverages from local sources whenever possible.Xanterra follows guidelines developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch protocol and the Audubon Society’s Living Oceans Seafood Guide. The company serves fish from Marine Stewardship Council-certified sustainable fisheries and those that were harvested using sustainable practices. Several years ago its restaurants stopped serving four species of seafood – Chilean Sea Bass, Atlantic Swordfish, Blue Fin Tuna and Shark – because the survival of those species is threatened by over-fishing, or they are harvested in ways that damage the environment. Locally sourced items include dates, pistachios, almonds and some beer and soda products.
Other initiatives include:
- Replacing all shower heads at the Inn with ultra-low-flow models
- Encouraging guests to reuse their towels and linens when staying multiple nights
- Replacing lighting fixtures with the most efficient models available
- Replacing 75-watt incandescent bulbs with five-watt cold cathode bulbs
- Replacing golf course irrigation motors with new, premium-efficiency variable-frequency drive motors
- Participating in a program called Demand Bidding with Southern California Edison to decrease electrical consumption during peak demand periods
- Discontinuing use of lights at the Inn tennis court
- Removing old, inefficient flood lighting and replacing it with “night-sky friendly” lighting, limiting light pollution in the park.