Marine Corps Gen. Amos: Water purification plants soon will be deployed in Afghanistan. Access to local water will keep trucks off IED-infested roads...

By Grace Jean
PANAMA CITY, Fla. - It’s one of the biggest ironies for marines fighting in Afghanistan: Many of their bases there sit along the Helmand River and yet their water supply is trucked in weekly. This is bad news, not just because of the inconvenience and expense of transporting gigantic loads of bottled water, but also because the convoys are trucking the water through mine-infested supply routes. In other words, if marines can find a way to produce water locally, they will save lives.
Marine officials speaking here this week at the NDIA Expeditionary Warfare conference are optimistic that a new reverse osmosis system will be able to take river water and produce 20,000 potable gallons per day. “We’re on the cusp of putting eight of these systems in Afghanistan,” said Gen. James Amos, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. Also, solar-powered systems soon will be deployed. Both the water- and energy-making systems will not only supply marines but also neighboring villages. Marine commanders are excited about the prospect of helping the local residents, Amos said. Any commander who can deliver water and electricity will instantly earn goodwill among the local population.
The commandant, Gen. James Conway, recently established an office of expeditionary energy, which will report directly to Amos. Energy demands have skyrocketed in recent years, Conway said at the recent Navy Energy Forum. In 2001, a Marine infantry battalion had 32 canvas-topped humvees. Today it has 55 armored humvees. The same unit had 175 radio sets in 2001, and today it has 1,220. Fuel is needed not just to fill up trucks but also to power mammoth electrical generators. The daily fuel requirement in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade is 88,000 gallons a day. A gallon of jet fuel that costs $1.05 ends up costing $400 by the time it gets to Afghanistan because of the transportation and security expenses. The next step for the Marine Corps is to evaluate what products and technologies may be available in government, academia and the private sector to address these energy problems. The Corps will host an Expeditionary Power and Energy Symposium in January in New Orleans. Conway said he wants to find quick solutions to lighten the combat load; reduce vulnerabilities to bases, stations and outposts; and improve overall energy efficiency in expeditionary environments. The Corps will be seeking briefings from industry, academia, research centers, national laboratories and other government agencies.

Topics: Energy, Energy Security, Power Sources, Expeditionary Warfare

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