News: Underground reservoir quenches Kandahar Airfield’s thirst
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – More than a quarter mile below the stark, barren surface of the Lower Helmand Basin where Kandahar Airfield is located is an unexpected oasis. Exactly 470 meters below the runway, dining facilities and Boardwalk is a huge reservoir of clean, cool clear water that has filtered and percolated through the Earth’s crust for millions of years.
And the thirst of the 25,000 residents of Kandahar Airfield is quenched by that water every day.
All of the Quench 2o water found across Kandahar Airfield comes from two wells directly below Kandahar Airfield that tap into the huge, deep aquifer that extends nearly 1,300 km to Kabul. Those two wells are the source of 80 percent of the drinking water produced at Kandahar Airfield’s Quench 2o water bottling plant. (To ensure a continuous supply of drinking water in any contingency, 20 percent of Kandahar Airfield’s bottled water continues to come from local and international sources.)
It takes a lot of liquid to quench the parched Kandahar Airfield residents’ thirst. The water bottling plant is set to produce 23.4 million liters of drinking water this year (or 46.8 million 500-milliliter bottles). That’s nearly 2,000 bottles of water for each of Kandahar Airfield’s residents annually.
Jeremy Hill, the Quench 2o bottling plant manager, said the underground reservoir could provide the airfield its water for decades even if an extended drought were to hit already-arid southern Afghanistan.
“We estimate the amount of the water in the aquifer could last for 150 years,” Hill said.
Although the well water is drinkable upon reaching the earth’s surface, it’s filtered through an ultra filtration system, a reverse osmosis system and an ultra violet system before being bottled and distributed to dozens of water points across Kandahar Airfield.
“When the water exits the ground, it’s highly mineralized and tastes slightly salty,” Hill said. “We remove excess minerals and treat the water with the ultra filtration system to remove any possible sediment and an ultra violet system that kills bacteria, viruses, yeasts, molds and other organisms.”
The Quench 2o water bottling plant is the newest water bottling facility in Afghanistan. The factory is operated by the Supreme Group, the same company that operates many of the dining facilities on Kandahar Airfield.
The plant has the maximum capacity to bottle 150,000 liters per day during times of extreme demand; it is on pace to average about 100,00 liters per day this summer season and will likely average about 50,000 liters this winter.
Hill declined to quote the exact cost of the construction of bottling plant and the current average amount it cost to produce a Quench 2o liter of water. He said Supreme does not pay any fee to tap into the aquifer and the other costs of producing the bottled water are minimal.
“The secondary packaging materials for the drinking water represent the highest expenditure we now have,” Hill said. “And those are just a drop in the ocean compared to the past costs associated with transporting and convoying bottled drinking water.”