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Testing enables innovative AUAB water solution

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kylie Barrow
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing

On June 3, 2021, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen installed two filtered water stations at the Blatchford-Preston Complex Fitness Center. These stations provide a safe drinking water alternative to plastic water bottles.

As a prerequisite to installing the filtration stations, agencies across the base conducted rigorous testing to determine that the water drawn from them would be fully safe to drink.

“The 379th Air Expeditionary Wing is dedicated to providing resources to both maintain readiness and improve our quality of life,” said Brig. Gen. Gerald Donohue, 379th AEW commander. “Moving toward a permanent drinking water source is a key step in making Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, a more resilient base and a responsible steward of the environment.”

Like many great initiatives, the water stations are a byproduct of a completely different effort. The original goal was to establish a base recycling program to make a positive impact on the environment by lowering water bottle waste.

Capt. Joanna Williams, 379th AEW executive officer, and Capt. William Peterson, 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron installation management flight commander, brainstormed different ways to recycle or reuse the nearly 16 million plastic water bottles AUAB throws away yearly. After presenting their ideas, they decided there was a better solution.

“Just recycling water bottles wasn’t really enough… and [wing leadership thought] we should go after the root cause of the problem, which is not having potable water or proper infrastructure on base,” said Peterson. “So we shifted our focus to potable water.”

After meeting with different units across the installation, including the 379th Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron, 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron and various flights within the 379th ECES to determine what steps needed to take place to implement a potable water system, the Water Bottle Tiger Team was created.

The team, consisting of multiple units and various coalition partners, decided that is was possible for AUAB to go from having non-potable water to safe drinking water, and began conducting a sanitary survey.

The 379th ECES looked at the water systems infrastructure to ensure it could handle the increased water demand, while the 379th Medical Group Bioenvironmental flight tested the water to identify chlorine levels, PH, bacteria presence, and other chemicals.

“As the Bioenvironmental flight, we are the subject matter experts in water quality, so we needed to assess vulnerabilities and the quality of the system,” said Senior Airman Matthew Ketterling, 379th EMDOS bioenvironmental engineering journeyman. “We created a trend analysis of roughly 4,600 samples to assess the changes it’s had over the last four years to ensure the quality and standards were being met.”

Following the infrastructure survey and proper water consumption test, the project to install the first two water filtration systems was approved.

“There is… a lot that has to be done on the infrastructure side for the enduring aspect of Al Udeid, but I think we are headed in the right direction to have at least gotten the first two water filtration stations, so we know it is possible,” said Williams. “[The filtration systems] are starting to be used and hopefully we can keep producing these stations and keep recycling water bottles.”

As the 379th ECES continues to work with host nation partners to enhance the infrastructure of the installation, AUAB Airmen and mission partners may soon see additional filtration systems at various locations across the base.