For Soldiers, Families and civilians living and working in the Mojave Desert, extreme temperatures and unforgiving winds is just a way of life. However, life would cease to exist in the desert, without the precious commodity of water.
The National Training Center recently cut the ribbon on what is referred to be one of the most efficient water treatment facilities in the Army, dubbed “Irwin Water Works.” This marks a major milestone in the installation’s efforts to conserve the natural resources of the desert. The new facility will bring pure drinking water to thousands of Soldiers, Families and civilians, saving millions of gallons of water per year, while prolonging the life of the Army’s crown jewel of combat training center’s for decades to come.
“Unless we have enough water here to support the mission, we don’t have a mission,” said Honorable Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Energy & Environment) “Ensuring that we have a sustainable water source here, means that we can continue to train and prepare our Soldiers to deploy around the world.”
In an effort to sustain the estimated 14,000 year-old water supply, major conservation efforts on Fort Irwin have been underway since 2003. Replacing grass with xeriscaping, using recycled waste-water to irrigate landscaping, and with every building renovation, net-zero waste has been at the forefront. Since the beginning of these conservation efforts, the installation has gone from using over 900 million gallons of water per year to 702 million gallons, reducing underground water siphoning by 34 percent in an area that only receives 4.2 inches of rain per year.
For years the installation has been using an inefficient system to produce drinking water called reverse osmosis. This old system wasted approximately 50 percent of the water pulled from underground aquifers.
Irwin Water Works will continue the installation’s water conservation by using a three-stage, electro-dialysis reversal (EDR) system, which will utilize 99.6% of the water pulled from underground aquifers. With the new system in place, for every gallon of water pulled from underground, the community will have nearly a gallon to drink.
“I’m not a geologist, or a scientist and I can’t talk the science of high quality H2O, but I do understand that it takes water to make drinkable water,” said Col. Matthew Moore, Commander, National Training Center. “What this means for everybody who lives, works and trains here, is there will only be one pipe going into and out of your house.”
The old way of supplying water to the community housing was referred to as a two-pipe system. One tap supplied drinking water through reverse osmosis, the other tap was for washing dishes and everything else. Now the workforce and residents of Fort Irwin will have pure drinking water right out of the faucet.
Irwin Water Works is another effort to conserve the lifeblood of the Mojave Desert. The new facility not only impacts national security by sustaining readiness training for thousands of service members, but also affects the nearby communities in the High Desert who support the mission of the National Training Center.
“The less water we draw from our aquifers helps not only the NTC, but the entire high desert community, from Cajon Pass all the way to Las Vegas,” said Moore.