Aberdeen Proving Ground is participating in a pilot program that will determine how installations Army-wide manage one of our most precious natural resources--water.

APG is one of several installations selected by the Army in 2011 for the Net Zero program, with the goal of reducing its water consumption by 26 percent by 2015 and 52 percent by 2020.

Successful strategies that APG puts in place over the next decade will be shared and implemented at military installations throughout the globe.

While many of the strategies are being studied and will be implemented years from now with additional funding and resources, APG has managed to execute several simple, yet significant, actions.

They include an effort by the City of Aberdeen that detects and repairs water leaks in the installation's distribution at APG North (Aberdeen).

"The City of Aberdeen efforts have been of great help to our efforts and has yielded significant savings," said John Wrobel of the Directorate of Public Works.

Another project that is yielding sizeable savings is the construction of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle landing strip on Spesutie Island. This facility was designed using Low Impact Development (LID) techniques that allow the facility to return storm water to underlying aquifers, or underground water sources, as opposed to conventional storm water capture and retention techniques.

"Low impact development's premise is to conserve natural areas and, wherever possible, not pave over the whole site if you don't need to," explained Wrobel, who is also the acting chief of DPW's Natural Resources branch. "LID emphasizes conservation and use of natural features to protect water quality, movement and distribution."

During a recent interview with the APG News, Wrobel also explained the importance of finding ways to better manage water consumption and resources.

He said it's like the old adage--Water, water everywhere … and not a drop to drink.

"Yes, rainwater is free and plentiful, for example, but it's no good if it's runoff. If you can't capture it, you can't reuse it," he said. "And there are high costs associated with transforming this water into potable (drinkable) water.

"Some places have real water shortages," said Wrobel, noting that various underground water sources that populations have depended on are projected to dry up.

Think drier desert regions, like Texas, where cities, including military installations, see significantly lower annual rainfall and nearby water sources boast high salt content.

Add to that the larger Soldier populations and higher water demands, and "there are serious sustainability concerns; going green is a must."

Wrobel noted that many of the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan can be associated with the need for frequent water and fuel convoys. He said there is the potential for decreased casualties if water conservation techniques result in fewer convoys.

"If we can prove new technology at the installation level, whether it's recycling water or waste, those can transfer to forward operating bases in the field where energy and water supplies and waste removal are logistical problems," said Devon Rust, DPW energy management specialist and acting installation energy manager. "If we can develop the technologies, then whole logistical problems are eliminated."

In order to avoid depleting the quantity and quality of ground and surface water sources in the region, Wrobel said APG is thinking out of the box.

"We are looking at strategies to reduce potable water consumption, and conserve and reuse captured water, and we hope to meet and possibly exceed the goals of the Army NetZero water program," said Wrobel.

Some of APG's current strategies include returning water back to the same watershed, harvesting rainwater, and recycling treated groundwater at the Canal Creek Groundwater Treatment plant for steam at the Central Boiler Facility in Edgewood.

These actions will reduce the amount of potable water being used, and operational costs. While improving the quality of runoff water and reducing pollutants entering the Chesapeake Bay, APG is also able to reuse some of the treated water for plant processes, cutting back on the amount of potable water used in APG South."

So far, so good, said Wrobel.

Wrobel and Rust briefed the garrison command on the installation's progress Jan. 31, noting that they are making decent progress just one year into the Net Zero project.

Wrobel highlighted an ongoing study on how to naturally irrigate APG South's Exton golf course. He also discussed a recently completed water roadmap--a study that takes inventory of how and where every drop of water is used on the installation. That study will allow them to cut wastes and reduce potable water use.

"We are just at the beginning of the Net Zero project--assessing needs and figuring out the best value for money spent. We haven't been able to implement as much as we'd like, but we're developing a pretty good plan forward," he said.

The need for more sustainability is not unique to the Army or the United States. While 70 percent of the earth is covered in water, less than 1 percent of fresh water is readily accessible for direct human use. Population growth, climate warming, and mismanagement have made drinkable, affordable water increasingly in short supply.

The United Nations estimates that by 2025, 48 nations, with combined population of 2.8 billion, will face freshwater "stress" or "scarcity."

"The technology that we will implement and the studies that we are conducting here at APG will have real-world implications down the road," said Wrobel. "We've got some really good ideas, really big water conservation projects," said Wrobel. "But we are always open to ideas from the community."

Wrobel said community members who have suggestions can contact him or Rust at john.g.wrobel.civ@mail.mil / 410-436-4840 or devon.a.rust.civ@mail.mil / 410-306-1125.