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Military Water Treatment Systems

The Army and Navy have different priorities for water treatment systems, both of which are different from those of municipal utilities or industrial water producers. To address treatment issues involved in the current theater of battle representatives from the US Army Tank Automotive Research and Development Command (TARDC, Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center, (NFESC) and Reclamation’s Desalination Research Team (86-68221) are working together with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to developing new technologies for efficient and robust desalination systems. Since 2003, ONR has funded developmental science and technology with the focus of smaller, lighter, more durable systems for expeditionary equipment and shipboard systems.

Expeditionary systems meant for serving many people during long deployments and for disaster response must be light, compact, energy efficient, and durable and able to treat any source of water. Reclamation is the caretaker of the first generation. Expeditionary Unit Water Purifier (EUWP). Months after it was completed, hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. Reclamation teamed up with TARDC to bring the system to Biloxi, MS to produce water for the local hospital – the only one still operating for miles around. The system shined in this deployment and as well as during its rigorous Environmental Technology Validation test in 2005-2006 that proved that the complete system produces high quality drinking water whether treating seawater, fresh surface water or even secondary sewage.

The priorities for Navy shipboard water treatment are low maintenance, and low or no chemical requirements. The current Navy Standard RO system (NSRO) approved in the late 1980s, is composed of cartridge filters, a high-pressure pump, and seawater RO membrane. This was fine for sailing in the deep blue sea, but in recent years, the navy has spent more time close to shore. Water quality in the oceans near shore has also declined such that the logistics burden of carrying sufficient cartridge filters, clean and fouled, and the labor involved in changing them frequently has become intolerable. Since ships generally have plenty of power, energy efficiency is not as important as the reliability and ease of maintenance.
Research focus areas are:

Prototype systems will be tested at the NFESC Seawater Desalination Test Facility in Port Hueneme, CA in the 2012. The next step in the process is to contract with a few developers to build full size prototypes and then militarized systems that will be deployed on Navy vessels in 2014.
Spiral Separator from Palo Alto Research Center
Spiral Separator from Palo Alto Research Center

Amphipilic brush structure bonded to surface and inside pores of UF membrane.
Amphipilic brush structure bonded to surface and inside pores of UF membrane.