CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq -- “High quality water is more than the dream of the conservationists, more than a political slogan. High quality water, in the right quantity, at the right place, at the right time, is essential to health, recreation, and economic growth,” stated U.S. Senator Edmund S. Muskie, during a speech March 1, 1966.
In the desert climate of Iraq, clean water is a vital ingredient to life. Without clean water, Marines would not be able to do much of anything. They would not be unable to take a shower or brush their teeth. They couldn’t wash their clothes or prepare food. Most importantly they couldn’t drink the water.
Water purification, or drinking water treatment, is the process of removing contaminants from surface water or ground water to make it safe and palatable for human consumption. A wide variety of technologies may be used, depending on the raw water source, contaminants present and standards to be met.
For seven Marines attached to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines clean water is their mission. They are responsible for ensuring the water that the Marines use aboard Camp Baharia is safe.
“We are responsible for providing water to all of the shower trailers and water tanks aboard Camp Baharia,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher R. Welsh, a hygiene equipment operator and DeRuyter, N.Y. native.
But the mission goes beyond that as they purify water for others units as well.
“We provide water for the Iraqi army units stationed aboard Camp Fallujah and we serve as a backup water point for Camp Fallujah in case their system goes down,” said Pfc. Anthony H. Smith, a 19-year-old Chincoteague, Va. native and hygiene equipment operator.
“We usually purify around 20,000 gallons of water daily,” added Smith.
Storage of such large amounts of water is not as difficult as it would seem. The Marines have the capability to store over 140,000 gallons of water, according to Smith. They have two large canvas bladders that can hold 50,000 gallons and two smaller bladders that can store 20,000 gallons.
Smith describes the purification process of this large quantity of water as a relatively easy task.
“The water isn’t all that dirty so we don’t have to worry about a lot of the more complicated techniques,” he stated. “We take water from Lake Baharia and run it through a filter containing several layers of sand and gravel that removes a lot of the large debris and impurities in the water. We don’t add any of the citric acids that we normally would because the water isn’t that dirty. We do add chlorine to the water after it has been filtered to kill any bacteria that may have survived.”
The result is clean water that can be used for a number of reasons, each one equally important to maintaining life in the desert.