Water Requirements for Defence Personnel: Ensuring Access to Safe Drinking Water in Challenging Environments

Water is a nonnegotiable component of all military operations. In modern manoeuvre warfare, ammunition and bulk fuel are unquestioningly the highest priority supplies, but a fully loaded Soldier under exertion in a combat environment will last roughly as long without water as an idling M1A2 Abrams battle tank without fuel.”

Ref: Capt. Daniel Mitchell and Staff Sgt. Ryan Ensley – US Army –
March 2019


Military personnel deployed in combat zones or peacekeeping missions, face unique challenges when it comes to accessing safe drinking water. In remote or hostile environments where conventional water sources may be scarce or contaminated, ensuring adequate water supply is essential for sustaining operations and safeguarding the health and well-being of troops.

This article explores the critical importance of water requirements for defence personnel, addressing the challenges, strategies, and innovative solutions to meet these needs.

The Importance of Water in Defence Operations

    • Water is a mission-critical resource for defence personnel, providing hydration, sanitation, and sustenance necessary for maintaining physical and cognitive performance in demanding environments.
    • Adequate hydration is vital for preventing heat-related illnesses, fatigue, and dehydration, which can impair decision-making and operational effectiveness during military missions.
    • Access to safe drinking water is essential for maintaining morale, resilience, and overall troop readiness in challenging and high-stress situations.

Challenges in Meeting Water Requirements

    • Limited access to clean water sources: Defence operations often occur in remote or austere environments where natural water sources may be scarce, contaminated, or inaccessible.
    • Vulnerability to waterborne diseases: Contaminated water sources pose a significant risk of waterborne illnesses such as diarrhoea, cholera, and dysentery, which can incapacitate personnel and compromise mission objectives.
    • Dependence on logistical support: Transporting and supplying large volumes of potable water to military bases or forward operating locations can strain logistical resources and increase vulnerability to supply chain disruptions or attacks. Water re-supply prime for attack and can take considerable resources to protect it. Current war theatres are highlighting these issues.
    • Targeted water sources: Often militaries target their enemy’s water sources by deliberate contamination or destroying the completely.
    • Logistical Cost: The cost per litre of water logistics in a war theatre can be staggering, over 50% of logistical cost in Afghanistan and Iraq was for water. This reduces much needed financial resources for other areas of critical re-supply.

UK MOD EST Water Purifier Evaluation

Strategies for Water Provision in Defence Operations

    • Expeditionary water purification systems: Deploying portable water treatment units enables defence forces to produce safe drinking water from local sources, reducing reliance on external water supplies and enhancing operational autonomy.
    • Tactical water resupply operations: Conducting regular resupply missions to deliver potable water to frontline units ensures continuous access to clean water and minimizes the risk of water shortages during sustained operations.
    • Water conservation and rationing: Implementing water conservation measures and rationing protocols helps optimize water use and prolongs the operational sustainability of military units in water-stressed environments.
    • Integration of water security measures: Incorporating water security considerations into mission planning and force protection strategies helps safeguard water infrastructure, prevent contamination, and mitigate the risk of water-related threats.

Innovative Solutions and Technologies

    • Mobile water purification units: Advanced water purification systems equipped with state-of-the-art filtration and disinfection technologies provide rapid and reliable access to safe drinking water in the field, enhancing operational flexibility and resilience.
    • Atmospheric water generation: Atmospheric water generators extract moisture from the air and convert it into potable water, offering a sustainable and self-sufficient water supply solution for remote or arid locations.
    • Solar-powered desalination: Solar-powered desalination plants utilize renewable energy sources to convert seawater or brackish water into fresh water, enabling defence forces to sustain operations near coastal regions or maritime environments.
    • Water-efficient equipment and systems: Integrating water-saving technologies into military infrastructure and equipment, such as low-flow faucets, water-efficient toilets, and greywater recycling systems, reduces water consumption and enhances operational sustainability.

The cost and risk of water delivery in the war theatre is staggeringly high. Employing point of use water purification technology significantly reduces this by providing forward operating autonomy.


Case Studies and Best Practices

    • Military operations in arid regions: Defence forces operating in desert environments, such as the Middle East or North Africa, have implemented innovative water conservation measures and alternative water supply solutions to overcome water scarcity challenges and maintain operational effectiveness.
    • Peacekeeping missions in remote areas: During peacekeeping operations in remote or underdeveloped regions, defence forces have collaborated with humanitarian organizations and local communities to establish sustainable water supply infrastructure and promote water security initiatives.


    • Access to safe drinking water is essential for the health, well-being, and operational effectiveness of defence personnel deployed in challenging environments.
    • By prioritizing water requirements for defence operations and leveraging innovative solutions and technologies, military organizations can enhance mission readiness, resilience, and sustainability.
    • Collaboration, innovation, and proactive planning are critical for addressing the water needs of defence personnel and ensuring operational success in diverse and dynamic operational environments.

Wananchi has developed a complete Deployable Water Supply System (DWSS) to support military operations with the provision of point of use water purification.

Speak to the Wananchi Team Today…