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Marines produce clean water with help from TWPS

27 Jun 2009 | Lance Cpl. Michael A. Bianco

Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 31 (CLB-31), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) performed Tactical Water Purification System (TWPS) operations aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), June 23.  

            According to Lance Cpl. Angel Vega Jr., a CLB-31 basic water support technician, TWPS replaced the Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU) as the Marine Corps’ and Navy’s main water purification system.

            “The modules and filtration system allows the TWPS to operate in a wider range of areas and climates than the ROWPU did and is better suited for combat situations,” said the 23-year-old Chicago native. “TWPS can turn seawater, freshwater and murky water into potable drinking water.”

            The TWPS process begins when the non-potable water is pumped into portable wells. The wells can hold up to 3,000 gallons of water. The unit uses micro-filtration and reverse osmosis technology during the purification process. In the end, potable water is pumped out one side of the machine and waste water out the other.  

            “All we have to do is calculate approximately how much water we need and then set the machine. It will continue to run until the amount of desired water is reached,” said Cpl. Barsam Dokh, a 21-year-old CLB-31 basic water support technician. 

The Houston native also said water purified through TWPS can be considered the cleanest water a person can drink.

            “In most bottles of (spring or purified) water the amount of total dissolved solids (TDS) is around 200 to 300 (particles per million),” he said. “This unit can get TDS down to almost zero.”

 According to Maj. Ernesto Bullicruz, Executive Officer of CLB-31, the system’s maximum capacity is dependent on several variables, including the material content and the amount of water available at the source. 

“Water with high material content, such as seawater, can yield between 540 to 720 gallons of potable water per hour,” said the Puerto Rico native.  He estimated that one TWPS could reasonably sustain a population of 400 individuals with an average of 15 liters of water per day, per person.   

The MEU has used the purification system in most of its deployments since adding it to the unit’s inventory in 2004.

“Although Marines and sailors in the field use this unit to provide themselves with a sufficient amount of potable water, we also use it during humanitarian assistance efforts,” Vega said. “When we are in countries where water quality or availability may be an issue, we use the TWPS to provide citizens with clean water they can use for drinking, cleaning, and anything thing else that would help them live healthier lives.”

Sgt. Douglas Leonard, a platoon sergeant for CLB-31, said water is a basic human need and the TWPS helps Marines and sailors acquire that need in the various environments in which they operate.

            “The capabilities the TWPS provides will make our water purification process more efficient and adaptable to more environments around the world,” said the 24-year-old from Rocky Mount, Va.  “With an increase in water supply the living conditions for Marines in the field will improve as more water is readily available for things such as showers, laundry, and hydration.”

            The MEU is currently preparing to participate in Exercise Talisman Saber 2009. TS ’09 is a bilateral command post and field training exercise designed to maintain a high level of interoperability between Australian and U.S. armed forces.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit