A June 28 ground-breaking ceremony marked the beginning of a construction project that will replace Fort Irwin’s two-system water distribution pipelines with a single water system to supply potable water to all homes, offices and facilities throughout the Fort Irwin cantonment area.
A new water purification plant, using the latest technologies in water purification and recovery processing, is being built by CDM Smith over the next 12-18 months on the northwest end of Goldstone Road, past the housing area. The construction project, overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, will have a 6-million gallons daily capacity.
The plant will remove all contaminants found in Fort Irwin’s groundwater, including naturally occurring arsenic, fluoride, nitrate and dissolved solids. The new system will eliminate the need for water faucets now designated “DU” for domestic use (washing, cleaning, irrigation), while other faucets are designated “RO” (reverse osmosis) to provide water from which fluorides and arsenic are removed to meet drinking water standards.
In his remarks at the ground-breaking ceremony, then garrison commander Col. Kurt Pinkerton noted, “We have a 30-40 year life span of water capability [at Fort Irwin]…this further extends our sustainability of this post.”
In an interview after the groundbreaking ceremony, CDM Smith executive vice president Peter Tunnicliffe said, “This will be among the highest level of treatment of potable water systems of this kind.”
The new water purification plant would save water. Tunnicliffe noted that in a conventional reverse osmosis plant, for every gallon going through its process, “you get back only half a gallon.”
“That’s the level of commitment the government has made to this precious water source here on base,” Tunnicliffe said.
Water taken from Fort Irwin wells will be treated in a serial process, including electro dialysis reversal, lime softening, membrane filtration, reverse osmosis and mechanical evaporation (distillation). The purification process will yield 99 percent or more potable water from the water taken into the plant. The remaining water will discharge into a nine-pond system, where the remaining water will evaporate, leaving waste solids to be removed for appropriate disposal.