ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Members of the APG community gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of a Net Zero water conservation project near the Canal Creek Aquifer Groundwater Treatment Facility (GWTF) on APG South (Edgewood) Sept. 29.

At this site, APG will begin recycling treated groundwater for steam at the Central Boiler Facility, which heats buildings on APG South. Currently, potable -- or drinkable -- water is used at the boiler facility.

By using groundwater, the Net Zero conservation project will save potable water and reduce operational costs. The project is scheduled for completion in February 2015.

"This means we do not have to buy water from outside the post, we are supplying our own alternative water source" said Devon Rust, Directorate of Public Works installation energy manager.

Rust said APG has an Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) with Johnson Controls for 23 years. This funding mechanism allows federal agencies to obtain energy-efficient technologies without up-front capital costs. Based on the contractual agreement, the installation will pay a portion of its annual energy cost savings to Johnson Controls for the duration of the contract.

Rust estimates that this project will save the installation close to $400,000 per year in water costs. By the end of the 23-year contract, it is estimated that $64 million dollars of energy and water will be saved.

"This is a win-win solution," said John Wrobel, acting chief of DPW's Natural Resources Branch, during the ceremony. Wrobel said the vision behind this project began in the mid-1980s when the state of Maryland condemned the Canal Creek Aquifer, stating that it was too contaminated to drink.

"That set the wheels in motion to develop a vision on how we can restore this aquifer so that we can reuse the water," he said.

In 1998, Wrobel's team came up with a plan for the beneficial reuse of treated groundwater. After multiple studies, a Record of Decision agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was reached in 2000. In 2004, the facility was repurposed to a GWTF. Currently, the treated water is discharged to Canal Creek.

"The (beneficial reuse) project was reinvigorated when APG was selected by the Army in 2011 to be a Net Zero Water installation," he said.

Wrobel explained that a Net Zero Water installation means returning to the environment as much water as is taken out of the environment and using less water in the first place. The goal of the Net Zero program is to reduce the Army's water consumption by 26 percent by 2015 and 52 percent by 2020.

During the ceremony Canal Creek Treatment Plant Project Manager Jeff Aichroth, from DPW, thanked Will Patillo, Bill Smith and Kenny Sigwart, DOD contractors from Watermark, who keep the facility running. The GWTF process 130 gallons of water per minute, and operates 24/7.

"They are passionate about what they do and the facility's success is solely a reflection of their efforts," Aichroth said. APG Garrison Commander Col. Gregory McClinton also thanked everyone involved, noting that the project will save tax payer dollars.

"You are forward thinkers," McClinton said. "It is good to see a vision come to fruition."