VICENZA, ITALY - "Water, water, everywhere;" but it’s not safe to drink. That’s a scenario that many U.S. Army Africa personnel traveling to the continent face.

When traveling to Africa, USARAF personnel should carry a small survival pouch known as a fly-away kit. It contains compact emergency gear complete with iodine water purification tablets and has all the tools to help travelers survive in isolated locations for short periods of time.

“I advise that people going to the African continent only drink purified water,” said John Whitley, director of USARAF Personnel Recovery. Whitley and the crew at the recovery directorate are responsible for ensuring that USARAF travelers are prepared for travel to Africa. The directorate provides training and the emergency kits for travelers from the command.

According to Uniformed Science and Technology Advisor to USARAF, Maj. Tim Franklin, another water purification solution is in the works for the fly away kit.

Iodine tablets have long been a standard for purifying water in emergency situations.

“The tablets require time and a makeshift filter such as a T-shirt. Really turbid water can often take upwards of six tablets per liter and a wait of an hour or more just to ensure water is safe to drink,” Franklin said.

According to Franklin, an individual water purification device can provide a rapid and safe alternative to the iodine tablets.

“Currently, chemical testing on prospective IWPDs is taking place at U.S. Army Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center laboratories. At Natick, chemical engineers are running the IWPD candidates through an exhaustive two-and-a-half month battery of tests to ensure they meet U.S. Army and Environmental Protection Agency water purity standards. Optimally we’d like to have a purifier that weighs less than a pound and is about eight inches long,” Franklin said.

He said that another desired capability would be with 29 mm threads so it could be married to a standard water bottle.

“And if we’re really lucky, the filter may even improve flavor of poor tasting water,” Franklin said.

Testing at the Natick will find out if candidate IWPDs meet the following standards:

Purify up to 100 liters of water
Work for 72 to 96 hours
Filter viruses such as poliovirus and rotavirus
Remove bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella
Remove protozoan cysts such as Giardia
Remove cyanide, arsenic, magnesium, sulfate
Remove chemical contaminants such as:
Organics - such as petroleum fuels and solvents
Inorganics - such as arsenic and nitrate
Metals - such as chromium, lead and mercury

“In the fall, Soldiers in the Horn of Africa will take part in an assessment of an individual water purifier for form and fit,” Franklin said.
“Soldiers won’t be using the IWPD to filter any questionable water. It will be used on potable water only. They are participating in the form and fit assessment known as a limited military user assessment known as an LMUA,” Franklin said.