By J.E. “Jack” Surash, P.E., SES, M.SAME, Christine Ploschke, CEM, Noah Garfinkle, M.SAME, and Kate McMordie Stoughton

Every critical mission on U.S. Army installations requires a resilient, efficient, and affordable water supply. Essential water uses on installations include human consumption, equipment cleaning, cooling of facilities, and fire suppression. The Department of Defense (DOD) is the largest water user in the federal government, utilizing more than 80-billion-gal per year. Of that, the Army consumes approximately 30-billion-gal at a cost of over $100 million annually, and delivered through 10,000-mi of pipe.

The complex infrastructure and operations required to provide this water to the Army relies upon the coordinated support of each installation, service headquarters, and the local community.

The Army prioritizes the sustainability and resilience of installation water supplies through, among other approaches, net zero eater assessments and the creation of Installation Energy & Water Plans. Section 2827 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, Improving Water Management and Security on DOD Installations, requires the creation and implementation of a joint methodology for conducting water management and security assessments. To meet this new requirement, the Army worked closely with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Department of the Navy, Department of the Air Force, and other federal partners, including the Department of Energy, to develop the required assessment methodology and plan for implementation. Additionally, the Army has selected 19 pilot installations to implement the first draft this year, with the objectives of identifying lessons learned and refining the methodology.


Section 2827 requires that DOD create a risk-based approach to water management and security, including the creation of “a methodology to assess risks to sustainable water management and security and mission assurance.”

Substantial guidance has been provided by Congress on what must be included in the assessment methodology, including five primary parts that are to be evaluated.

  • An evaluation of the water sources and supply connections, including water flow rate and extent of competition for the water sources.
  • An evaluation of the age, condition, and jurisdictional control of water infrastructure serving the installation.
  • An evaluation of the water security risks related to drought- prone climates, impacts of defense water usage on regional water demands, water quality, and legal issues, such as water rights disputes.
  • An evaluation of the resiliency of the water supply and the overall health of the aquifer basin of which the water supply is a part, including the robustness of the resource, redundancy, and ability to recover from disruption.
  • An evaluation of existing water metering and consumption, considering at a minimum the type of activity and fluctuations in consumption, including peak consumption by quarter.

In April 2022, DOD submitted a response that outlined a jointly developed methodology, which is divided into three assessments: exposure, installation context, and response. Each assessment is designed to be completed through a combination of headquarters-level analysis and installation data call.

The approach adopted by the Army leverages existing datasets as much as possible to decrease the amount of information asked of each installation. Existing datasets utilized include Installation Status Report—Mission Capacity; geospatial and real property data from Headquarters Installation Information System and Army Installation Atlas; and data collected by Installation Energy & Water Plans.

Building on top of these, the assessment methodology uses datasets compiled by other federal agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey and Department of the Interior.

Exposure Assessment. The primary goal of the exposure assessment is to examine the amount of water each installation uses in comparison to the total availability, sustainability, and level of competition within its watershed, as defined by the Hydrologic Unit Code 8. This assessment leverages studies to examine the current state of water demand within each watershed that the Army draws water from. Longer time horizon risks to water security include climate change, for which the assessment methodology utilizes modeled projections of drought years, frequency of flash drought, and aridity that may be faced by watersheds in 2050 under a high emissions scenario.

Installation Context. The installation context assessment examines all water uses to better understand the missions that the water serves, as well as important details about infrastructure and metering.

The installation context section of the assessment conducts three main lines of inquiry:

  • How and when is water used at the installation?
  • How much water meter data is already available to support water stewardship?
  • What is known about the age, condition, and jurisdictional control of the water infrastructure serving the installation?

Response. Army installations are already subject to requirements for water resilience planning. Teams working to meet Section 2827 requirements recognize that these contributions are mitigating factors to the overall risk assessed. Response factors can be both real-world and institutional.

Example response factors assessed include installation water storage and backup supplies that might be utilized during short- to medium-term disruptions to a primary supplier. Institutional best practices surveyed include water reduction plans, training, documentation of water rights, and existence of other water continuity of operations and contingency plans.


During initial development of the methodology, seven Army installations participated as pilots: Camp Rilea, Ore.; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Gordon, Ga.; Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; Fort McCoy, Wisc.; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; and Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pa. Public works staff at each base was vital for improving the methodology and capturing existing sources for many answers by answering questions within the three assessment categories.

The Army installations selected as pilots for the full assessment methodology in 2022 include Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Hamilton, N.Y.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; Fort Irwin, Calif.; Fort Polk, La.; Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; Iowa Army Ammunition Plant; Presidio of Monterey, Calif.; Rock Island Arsenal, Ill.; Army Garrison Alaska; Army Garrison Miami; the U.S. Military Academy, N.Y.; and White Sands Missile Range, Nev.

The 26 total installations selected for assessments will serve an important role in shaping the Army’s approach to meeting Congress’ intent, as will the rest of the military water community. Compliance with Section 2827 has important implications for all Army installations. Capturing lessons from these pilot assessments will improve the service’s ability to prioritize and communicate water needs and assist in improving overall water security.

J.E. “Jack” Surash, P.E., SES, M.SAME, is Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy & Sustainability, and Christine Ploschke, CEM, is Program Manager – Water, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy & Sustainability. They can be reached at; and

Noah Garfinkle, M.SAME, is Research Civil Engineer, U.S. Army Engineer Research & Development Center;

Kate McMordie Stoughton is Senior Advisor, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory;

[This article first published in the July-August 2022 issue of The Military Engineer.]