The Army's Ultimate Weapon Runs on Water

Thursday April 19, 2007

What is it? The Soldier, of course. Soldiers need ample supplies of safe, drinkable water to win on the battlefield. In cases where they cannot access military-provided drinking water, individual water purifiers (IWPs) meet their need for this vital "fuel." Deployed Soldiers need significantly more drinking water than the traditional eight glasses a day. In fact, Soldiers serving in hot climates or subjected to high physical demands may need to drink up to 12 liters of water a day (about 50 8-ounce glasses). Current military-issued emergency water purifiers work slowly, and may produce microbiologically unsafe water. Commercial vendors have marketed alternate purifiers to the military, but none have been systematically tested by the U.S. military.

What has the Army done? The U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (USACHPPM) recently performed the U.S. military's first science-based, systematic performance assessment in military circumstances of commercial off-the-shelf individual water purifiers. Sixty-eight IWPs were reviewed. Beyond reducing bacteria, viruses and other dangerous microbes, a "best" IWP also had to be small and lightweight; purify quickly; purify turbid (cloudy) waters; not make the water smell or taste bad; be simple to use; and be durable under field conditions. It was determined that choosing an IWP involves inherent trade-offs between these and other factors. To assist Soldiers and units in choosing among IWPs, USACHPPM developed a Web-based, interactive tool that allows users flexibility in matching IWPs to their particular needs and circumstances.

What efforts does the Army plan to continue in the future? While USACHPPM's Web-based interactive decision tool is available now, USACHPPM is conducting follow-on studies of selected IWPs through PEO Soldier to refine its understanding of the identified top performers and to partner in Army acquisition efforts under Program Executive Office Soldier to develop and field a "best" future IWP to the Soldier.

To see study details and use the interactive tool for selecting IWPs, click here.

For information about Army water programs, click here.


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