TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. (Army News Service, Sept. 24, 2012) -- Army installations are working on ways to conserve water, from pipe-leak-detection systems, to the use of drought-resistant grasses on post golf courses.

Environmental specialists from seven of the eight installations running Net Zero water pilot programs gathered at Tobyhanna last week to discuss water balance and "roadmaps" of how to get the Army to a point where it only uses as much water as needed, then recycles what is used.

Net Zero water is part of a triad that includes energy security and waste reduction and has goals to be implemented by 2020. The program represents the Army's efforts to capture both installation and operational performance.

The move toward net zero water focuses on reducing potable water use by 26 percent in fiscal year 2015 and to reach a 50-percent reduction by FY 2020 through recycling wastewater, reducing overall water usage and eliminating and reducing environmental impacts on water supplies.

Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, launched the progress review via telephone from Washington, D.C., because her aircraft was grounded due to high winds and poor weather.

"Many of you have been working on water balance for your installation and that's where you compare the total water supplied to your site to the actual water consumed," she said. "The background information that is collected on the installation's overall water supply and waste-water discharge becomes the foundation for your plans and strategy"

Hammack said the Army needs to better understand how much water it takes to produce the materiel it needs. She noted that it takes 140 liters of water to make a cup of coffee from growing the beans to processing them; 2,400 liters of water to churn out a hamburger; and a kilogram of chicken requires some 3,900 liters.

"What we don't' have data for is the amount of imbedded water it takes for a helicopter or an M-4 or a 5.56 ammunition round," she said. "We need to start thinking about the impact water could have on our ability to procure the equipment we need to fight.

The secretary highlighted that water was a timely issue as 61 percent of the contiguous United States was in drought conditions throughout the summer with more than 1,000 counties in 26 states declared disaster areas -- many of which contain Army installations. She added that the 2010 Quarterly Defense Review identified that such drought conditions in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America can lead to insurrection as well as migratory changes and movements of people.

"Drought caused more deaths in the last century than any other natural disaster and Asia and Africa ranked first among continents in the number of people directly affected," she said. "So, what I want to leave you with is we have to translate our roadmap and our water efficiency plans into implementation with an increased focus on water productivity to ensure that every drop of water contributes as much as possible.

The two-day workshop included success stories from Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pa.; Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Bliss, Texas; Camp Rilea, Ore., Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

Tobyhanna Army Depot environmental specialist Tom Wildoner shared the story of the depot's contribution to net zero water and how the command identified six drinking water leaks responsible for the loss of about 90,000 gallons of water per day -- or 26 percent of the depot's daily water use.

The depot installed 54 leak-detection sensors which were strategically placed throughout the installation by magnetically attaching them to water main valve stems. The sensors check sound levels each day at a specific time, then are reviewed by in-house personnel. Wildoner said nearly 17 million gallons of potable water have been saved at a $29,459 cost savings.

Another measure Tobyhanna implemented was the installation of water meters which helped reduce water loss by 11,000 gallons per day. Hammack earlier had said the Army intended to install about 7,900 water meters across the service, though the type and cost have not yet been determined.

While Tobyhanna draws its entire water supply from six deep groundwater wells, Fort Riley, Kan., takes its water from groundwater aquifers along the Republican and Kansas Rivers. The post maintains its own drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities.

Riley's wastewater treatment plant recycles effluent for cleaning, maintenance and equipment cooling purposes at the plant instead of using potable water. The post has also installed low-flow, highly efficient water saving fixtures including showerheads, toilets and water faucets.

The fort also converted the golf course fairways from traditional turf grasses to Zoysia varieties that are more drought-resistant and water-efficient, which helped realize a reduction of 12 million gallons of water annually.

The central vehicle wash facility at Riley uses a close-loop system that catches rinse water from the washing area and allows it to filter through a series of ponds. As contaminants are removed through each pond, the water emerges and is then pumped back to the washing area for reuse.