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    Army taps consortium to find water for training area high up Hawaiian volcano

    University of Hawaii researchers drill for information on Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea

    Courtesy Photo | Geochemist Donald Thomas, right, director of the Center for the Study of Active...... read more read more

    Dr. Donald Thomas has been a frequent visitor to the high plateau saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. The geochemist, director of the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes at the University of Hawaii, likes to drill holes into the mountain.
    “Most people are drilling for water. We are drilling for information,” said Thomas.
    His research crew even brought in a specialized diamond wireline core drilling rig to the Big Island from Minnesota to plumb the mountain’s depths. A tube inside the drill receives the core, then the wireline cable recovers the core every 10 feet as the drill advances.
    His latest water research was funded by U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii through Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units National Network, a consortium of 15 federal agencies and 390 universities and non-governmental organizations. It links federal land-managing agencies with universities, museums and other non-profit organizations that can provide research, training and technical expertise in managing natural and cultural resources. It allows easy transfer of federal funds through cooperative agreements -- rather than contracts -- to individual principal investigators.
    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Fort Worth is the designated point of contact for all Department of Defense installations that work with CESU. More and more are turning to CESU for cost-effective solutions, said Kathy Mitchell, who manages the program in Fort Worth for the Southwestern Division’s Regional Planning and Environmental Center.
    Pohakuloa Training Area, one of the nation’s premier military training fields, is located 6,200 feet up Mauna Loa’s slopes, ideal for maintaining combat readiness. Units train at Pohakuloa to prepare for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan since it replicates hot days and cold nights. The very remoteness of this 133,000-acre facility creates logistical challenges: securing water to supply 2,300 military personnel during four- to six-week training rotations.
    Lt. Col. Christopher M. Marquez, the garrison commander at Pohakuloa, calls it “the most expensive water in the Army.”
    Every single drop of water must be transported up the mountain, said Gregory R. Fleming, the deputy garrison commander.
    "The cost of providing water to PTA is $3.6 million, annually," he said. "On average, it requires 4,000 deliveries by tanker trucks carrying 5,000 gallons of water to meet the 20 million gallons required annually. Every water need on the installation depends on these deliveries.”
    The research may contribute a lot to mission sustainment. It documented for the first time two significant aquifers amid a generally porous geologic zone. One was a perched groundwater pocket, at the 6,000-foot level, just 700 feet down. It stayed stable to just shy of 1,200 feet.
    “Then we drilled through the perching formation. We wanted to find out why the water was there. This is where the perching information is. What we were seeing was an ash layer, fairly rich in clay,” said Thomas.
    The team also found a second aquifer, deeper down, that was huge and hot -- 280 degrees F.
    One reason for CESU’s growing popularity is it can match installation environmental and cultural service needs with providers from the public sector research community at a very affordable cost, said Mitchell.
    “CESU is a better deal because we are using available resources of universities and non-profit organizations to carry out a public purpose that extends beyond the exclusive direct benefit of the government,” she said. “It can provide project results to a wide audience and project results or outputs add to scientific literature and knowledge base while allowing academic and other nonfederal partner institutions the ability to gain professional experience and develop skills and abilities.”
    CESU is not suitable for compliance with air and water quality requirements regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. But CESU is a good match for environmental work related to research and conservation, including compliance with National Environmental Policy Act issues such as endangered species and cultural resources, she said.
    For the volcano research, the garrison can tap the 19 members of the CESU Hawaii-Pacific Islands regional hub. The hub posts work opportunities, which then can draw competition for the assignment. It takes 60 to 75 days to accomplish, start to finish, ending with a signed agreement, said Mitchell.
    Thomas is now looking for ways, through CESU, to help the installation document the extent, quality and availability of the perched aquifer as a potable water source.
    “This work has completely turned on its head our understanding of the groundwater hydrology of Hawaii,” said Thomas.

    This article first appeared in the April/May/June 2017 issue of Public Works Digest.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 04.07.2017
    Date Posted: 04.07.2017 17:21
    Story ID: 229643
    Location: HI, US

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