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NEWS | Sept. 25, 2014

Army South tests 'Water in a Box' for future operations

By Sgt. Mahlet Tesfaye Army South Public Affairs

U.S. military forces are heavily dependent on drinkable water during deployments, which is very resource intensive and not always cost-effective.

To alleviate this problem, U.S. Army South field tested and trained Soldiers on a self-sustaining mobile water purification and packaging system called "Water in a Box" at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Sept. 8-16. This kit can be easily operated and transported during contingency missions.

"A safe and reliable resource of food and water is vital in sustaining any military operation such as humanitarian assistance, peace keeping, training, contingency or combat operations," said Maj. Richard Ramos, Army South environmental science and engineering officer. "You cannot go very far once you run out of water. This capability purifies and packages water for the military without relying on water supply chains."

The system is designed to service a smaller unit, company size and below, by producing approximately 2,000 gallons of purified drinking water daily from freshwater, saltwater or brackish water in a very quick manner and it is small, light and compact which makes it easier to travel and access.

"This equipment is important for Army South because we have smaller units or contingency elements that deploy to Haiti and other small countries where natural disasters may happen," said Sgt. 1st Class Gabriel Bellamy, an ARSOUTH water treatment specialist. "This system produces water faster for a smaller number of Soldiers."

"One of the threats we see in our area of operation is that we might not have access to safe water sources or we are in an area where we don't have approved sources to buy potable bottles of water," said Dr. Kenneth Byrd, ARSOUTH science and technology advisor. "The 'Water in a Box' system will give us the  opportunity not to have to rely on those local bottling plants. We also have preventative medicine in the loop to verify the safety of the water that we are packaging in the system."

"I think it is a strong resource that will enhance or improve our deployment readiness and our capability to respond in the event of a disaster situation anywhere in our area of responsibility," Ramos added.

The system is composed of a filtration system with two onion bags for water storage, a mobile water packaging system, water pumps, generators and the water quality monitoring set purification for on-site
quality assurance.

"Water in a Box" can be set up and operational within a few hours. It packages water into three-liter bags that fit most Soldiers hydration systems, lessening the burden of purchasing and sustaining bottles of water.

"The packaging system is very unique because it prepackages water in a sterile environment and prepares it for Soldiers in a sturdy plastic bag ready to drink," Bellamy said.

According to Ramos, one of the responsibilities of preventive medicine related to this system is sampling and characterizing the condition of the raw water source before running it through the reverse osmosis water purification unit and then sampling and analyzing the finished product making sure the water is safe to drink or for other mission related uses.
Army South Soldiers went through seven days of training on the "Water in a Box" system learning how  to set up, operate and maintain the equipment in order to be ready for future Army South deployments or
operations. The Soldiers also received training on how to ensure the quality of the water is safe for drinking after it goes through the system.

Ramos said he was glad Army South was selected to field this kit and that he was chosen to participate. He added, "Now is an ideal time to receive this capability," he said. "Disaster can occur at anytime in Central and South America and this particular training of the core groups of Soldiers is a good start to improving the system and improving our readiness to respond as a taskforce."