SOUTHWEST ASIA – In an effort to help the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing improve combat capability and mission readiness, the 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron devised plans to both conserve and recycle on-base water.
“We were challenged by leadership to find a way to save water and we started looking at the simplest and impactful things that we could find,” said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Griffin, 332nd ECES NCO in charge of water and fuel systems.
One of their initiatives was to install low-flow restrictors in the showers, which decreased water flow while still providing adequate water pressure.
“It’s to encourage water conservation,” said Maj. Remington Marsden, 332nd ECES engineering flight commander. “These restrictors are designed to limit water flow to approximately 1 to 1.5 gallons per minute.”
Previously, some of the showers used a gallon of water in about 17 seconds, Griffin said. Due to these restrictors, about 30,000 gallons is saved daily.
“It equates to about 14 million gallons a year, which ends up saving us $186,000 a year,” said Griffin, a native of Wattsburg, Pennsylvania.
The wing considers it important to demonstrate proper stewardship of resources, which includes being conscious and conservative of water usage.
“We are in a very arid country and water scarcity is a serious issue for the local people,” said Marsden, who is a native of Naperville, Illinois, and deployed from Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. “All water on base, with the exception of our bottled water used for drinking and cooking, comes from a single source: a well, which draws water from an aquifer located approximately 1,800 feet underground. If the U.S. overdraws from this well, we run the potential risk of our supply being temporarily shut off.”
Conserving water is not just important to save money; it also help improves relations with the local community and host country.
Water is a limited and scarce resource in this area. The 332nd ECES go out of their way to find ways to save water, said Griffin, who is deployed from Whiteman AFB, Missouri.
“They are always under restrictions and it is expensive for them to purchase the water,” Griffin explained. “It is really hard for them to get water for things like agriculture. So, when they see us coming in and using tons and tons of water, it creates animosity.”
By saving the water, we are creating better community relations, he elaborated, adding that our host nation partners noticed the difference in our water usage since adding the water flow restrictors and “are appreciating our efforts” to save water.
Water is used for more than showering, laundry, handwashing stations and other hygiene care. It is also used for dust management, fire prevention, construction work and more.
The construction includes developing a new living area for the military and upgrading work centers and other parts of the base.
“With the new construction and everything that is going on, we are really close on the amount of water we can use,” he continued. “By conserving the water, it makes it so we can still work on the projects we have going on around base and keep upgrading things.
People on base can also help save water during their normal activities, which are no different than standard water conservation efforts asked of personnel at their home stations.
The 332nd ECES asks for people to not leave the sink running while shaving or brushing their teeth. Also, when using a handwashing station, do not leave the sink running for the next person. Furthermore, people should use minimal water while showering and to take “combat showers,” which is running the water only while rinsing.
The 332nd ECES has more plans slated to save and recycle additional water.
“We are going to be installing a reverse osmosis unit for the dining facility,” Griffin explained. “It is a form of water purification that uses water pressure to force the water through a semi-permeable membrane before the filter. When it comes out, you will have two different streams of water: you’ll have a really nice potable water that you can drink and then you’ll have rest of the water with all of those salts and minerals.”
The brine water will be recycled around to a few different parts of the base to be re-used as shower and laundry water.
“It will be mixed with non-portable water and, in essence, make the water softer so you can use less soap for your laundry and have less dry skin from taking showers,” said Griffin.
The 332nd ECES will continue to seek out other ways to conserve water in the future.
“We are always looking for ways to improve and save money,” Griffin said. “Essentially, we are looking to find ways to leave it better than we found it and to search for ways to eliminate waste.”
In the event that a shower does not have proper water pressure, if the drains are clogged or if there are any other problems with the latrines, contact 332nd ECES customer service. The number is located on the door of each latrine and they will respond to the issue within 24 hours.