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Military drinking water @ $60 a gallon

A Michigan State Univ researcher is using a $1.92 million Dept of Defense grant to develop a portable wastewater treatment system that could really help in several ways.

The solar-bio-nano project is being spearheaded by MSU assistant professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering, Wei Liao. It will generate energy & produce drinking water, thus providing a potential blueprint for the future of municipal/agricultural wastewater treatment systems.

During military ops, shipping from port to bases on or near the front lines can push the cost of water up to nearly $60 per gallon. A portable, self-sustaining system would allow the bases to be more nimble and a lot more cost-effective.

“Bases on or near the front lines could transport this small-scale system by semi-truck and will greatly reduce their demand for water and fuel,” said Liao. “The integrated system can serve about 600 people, is patentable and hopefully can be scaled up to serve larger populations.”

There will be three major components. First, the solar unit will use new materials and employ a novel configuration making it up to 80% lighter than traditional solar units. Second, biological conversion processes will break down wastewater and food scraps to produce methane that can be used as fuel. Finally, a nano-filtration system will then take the sewage from the biological processes to provide drinking water.

If the project proves effective in military settings, it has great potential in a wide range of wastewater treatment systems, from agricultural ops to municipal wastewater treatment plants.

“The short-term goal is to drive costs down and to allow the military to alleviate supply chains’ overarching control over its maneuvers,” he said. “The long-term goal is to apply advanced and integrated technologies to transform agricultural and municipal wastes from an environmental liability into a public and private asset.”

This is good thinking by the DoD. Glad to see these kinds of changes.

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