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Posted 1/27/2015

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By By Drs. Clint Smith, Amy Fisher, Mike Anderson and Alex Ly and Matthew Renner, ERDC-GRL


ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Researchers from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Geospatial Research Laboratory (GRL)’s Geospatial Sensing and Photonics Laboratory recently developed four Water Diagnostics Operations Gear (WaterDOG) systems and two Water Assessment and Purification Systems (WAsPs) as part of a series of demonstrations for the Water Treatment and Handling Team of Product Manager Petroleum And Water Systems (PM PAWS), which is part of the Tank Automotive Research and Engineering Center (TARDEC).

TARDEC and PM PAWS are responsible for a range of petroleum laboratories, petroleum storage and distribution systems, water purification and treatment systems, and water storage and distribution systems.  The Water Treatment and Handling Team in Warren, Michigan, is focused on reducing operational energy and water requirements, developing operationally viable alternative energy sources, and increasing water reuse.  Energy and water represent the largest share of logistical requirements.

The WaterDOG technology is a geo-enabled physical water quality toolkit for monitoring water quality and potable water production by the military.  The WaterDOG is an In-Line Water Quality Analysis System-Purification (In-Line WQAS-P) developed by GRL’s Geosense team.  The team consists of scientists and engineers Drs. Clint Smith, Andmorgan Fisher, Michael Anderson, and Alex Ly and Matthew Renner.

“The WaterDOG updates the WQAS program of record by digitizing its physical water quality data collection and rapidly transmitting the data to multiple end users.  Data from these geospatially enabled systems will eventually be provided to the Army Geospatial Enterprise at the Army Geospatial Center (AGC),” said Fisher.  GRL is co-located with AGC and engages in research to support the development of the Army Geospatial Enterprise, as well as develop geospatially-enabled technologies for the Army and the nation.

The WaterDOG provides water treatment operators with a rapid digitized toolkit for verifying treatment process operation and currently measures the following parameters: water temperature, pH, conductivity, turbidity, oxidation reduction potential, dissolved oxygen, and free available chlorine.  “Monitoring of these parameters is required in order to certify water as potable and data can be accessed instantaneously via networked devices (mobile or stationary) using the Retriever 1.0 software also developed by the Geosense team,” said Ly.  Demonstration testing of the technology occurred at GRL and by invitation to the Effective Energy for Expeditionary Operations Limited Objective Experiment (E2X-LOE) at Fort Eustis in 2014, by the Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM), which supports the Sustainment Warfighting Function and represents a transition partner for the technology.

GRL was tasked by TARDEC to develop a digitized, geo-enabled, in-line WQAS for physical water quality analysis and monitoring.  The WaterDOG successfully monitored and reported real-time data (both pre- and post-treatment) for several small water treatment units being evaluated by the Army’s water community at the E2X-LOE.  The results of the E2X-LOE will inform both the requirements and acquisition process, including milestone decisions, key performance parameter values in capability documents, validated capability and training impacts.  Future generations of the system aim to have fully integrated diagnostics within the toolkit for monitoring and reporting water quality rapidly, thus enhancing Soldier health and safety by replacing periodic water quality monitoring with automated continuous measurements. 

"This technology will replace much of the current methodology used to guide water quality monitoring and training efforts, by accurately and rapidly disseminating water quality data for Soldiers in the field and to higher echelons at command centers, which will allow simultaneous monitoring of multiple water production operations from a central location,” said Anderson.

Water quality analysis systems already commercially available do not report in-line with rapid geo-enabled digital data formats within the field environment and are mostly stationary and not field portable. The new geo-enabled networked sensing system found within the WaterDOG for reporting water quality diagnostics are designed to attach to pre- and post- water treatment systems to provide portable water treatment monitoring and report back in real time the physical water quality parameters used by the water community for assessing water quality after purification from source water supplies.  

“As a result, the WaterDOG or In-Line WWAS-P and its supporting software (Retriever 1.0) can give monitoring results more rapidly and cover larger geographic areas, than current analog-based equipment, thereby disseminating water quality from Army Water Teams globally,” said Fisher.  The new technology could replace much of the current analog methodology used to guide water treatment efforts, by accurately and quickly delineating the locations of the cleanest source waters to use for water production or allow for rapid source water screening.

The Retriever 1.0-developed software allows the system to provide pre-processed data, which is more informative to the end user and enhances the decision-making process.  This pre-processing step takes advantage of thresholds built into the software that enables the “smart data” to be more useful to the end user.  

“This rapid digital data transfer will improve how data are currently collected and reported for water quality monitoring systems and also represents a cost savings in comparison to equipment currently being used by the Army,” said Anderson.  Further testing has shown that additional sensors can be added to the system thus allowing for a broader monitoring and assessment capability. “The new technology stands to enhance current protocols for water quality monitoring, water treatment and production, and the adaptable geospatial networked system or “brain” behind the system can aid multiple distributed sensing systems within the Civil and Military community.”

Development of this technology has also led to three Army patent disclosures and is now part ERDC’s intellectual property portfolio.  The Geosense team provided both professional Army in-house contacts with TARDEC and the needed expertise using the laboratory’s unique indoor/ outdoor source water monitoring system.  Their areas of research and development have included the characterization of terrain data and signatures analysis.  Smith and the Geosense team also have had prior research experience with geospatially distributed sensing systems for the Army and have been at the forefront in geospatially distributed sensing systems for the DOD community.

Recent GRL tests and design developments have involved a smaller WaterDOG built into a man-portable backpack system called the WAsP and were assessed and demonstrated with the Space and Naval Warfare Command System-PACOM in Hawaii in August 2014 and was also briefed to the U.S. Army Pacific and the 40th Quartermaster Co., the PACOM first responder for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief incidents. 

Continued progress has led to additional proposals and RDT&E funding within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.  The Geosense team established relationships with new partners during their presentation of the WaterDOG technology at the E2X-LOE and PACOM Technical Insertion Meeting in August 2014. Attendees included professionals from PACOM and the U.S. military community, the Army Rapid Equipping Force, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Defense Logistics Agency and other government organizations that convened to discuss the latest innovations and best practices in novel technology for technical insertion.  The Military Interdepartmental Purchase Request partners connected with a broad group of potential customers for further commercial products.

Partnerships established, as well as new relationships developed during GRL testing and the public presentations of test results are expected to continue GRL involvement in improvement of water quality monitoring.  “Follow-on research and development to fine tune the WaterDOG system will further shorten response time, save Army funds, and greatly increase knowledge about water quality monitoring for water treatment efforts by Civil and Military operations, which represents a significant benefit to the water monitoring industry and the terrestrial sciences,” said Fisher.

GRL