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NEWS | April 11, 2022

Devens Reserve Forces Training Area Resilience and Central Monitoring Initiative Cuts Water Usage By 44 Percent

By Ashley Bradford Office of the Chief, Army Reserve

Devens Reserve Forces Training Area (DRFTA) is one of many Army Reserve installations experiencing impressive energy and water resilience achievements in the face of climate change and cybersecurity threats. Beginning in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021, a new initiative enabled DRFTA to quickly identify significant water leaks and execute repairs. Through their streamlined efforts, the installation cut over 2 million gallons of water use by the end of the first quarter of fiscal year 2022 – a 44 percent reduction in annual water consumption resulting in a cost avoidance of $16,500.

In the fall of 2020, the installation’s Directorate of Public Works (DPW) began reviewing water consumption twice daily through their advanced meters system. The intensified monitoring was spurred by a prolonged toilet leak episode in a barracks used for COVID quarantining. Due to the infrequent occupancy, the toilet ran undetected for more than nine days and consumed more than 426,000 gallons of water.

“The biggest leaks we encounter are continually flushing toilets or urinals in the barracks,” explained Andrew Coffin, the contract resource efficiency manager for the installation. “These ‘runaways’ can use more than 30,000 gallons per day, and really stand out visually on data graphics. When we began leveraging our meter data on a daily basis, we started catching these major leaks soon after they started and were able to get the water shut off and the leaks repaired, usually within hours of when they start.”

Coupled with support from multiple departments across the installation, the visibility of increased water usage has enabled DRFTA to more effectively identify the source of leaks with reduced personnel at the Army Reserve-funded training area. “We’re working smarter with limited resources,” added Coffin. “We do not have people in our buildings full time. Our human eyes and ears are diminished. That makes the data much more valuable. When we identify a potential leak, we notify the DPW shop immediately and begin trying to narrow down the leak location within the building. For barracks-building leaks, the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security Billeting staff shares schedules which identify floors and rooms in use. If necessary, we directly call points of contacts for visiting units to see if any Soldiers recall constantly flushing urinals and toilets in their rooms. The DPW shop personnel are really responsive and by helping narrow down the locations we can help them use their time effectively.”

The next step for DRFTA is the integration of its advanced meters into the Army Reserve’s Enterprise Building Control Systems (EBCS) program. “The integration into EBCS makes sense for multiple reasons,” Coffin noted. “It enables real-time alarming and remote notification, helping us to respond rapidly to issues like water leaks during off business hours. It also offers an authorized infrastructure for connecting compliant building automation systems to a central server. This will enable remote monitoring and control of our HVAC in critical mission facilities, which has huge energy and operational benefits.”

By integrating advanced meters and selected building control systems into EBCS. DRFTA will have access to EBCS’s robust central monitoring, control, and advanced analytical features. The installation will also have access to EBCS program sustainment support, technical reach back, and tailored research and development solutions through the program’s partnership with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. This will enhance DRFTA’s ability to address resource challenges, advance facility efficiency, increase mission readiness, and work towards critical climate change goals.

Closely monitoring water consumption is one component of an overall effort to increase energy and water efficiency to bolster the resilience and readiness of the installation. “Regularly reviewing our meter data is one of many initiatives that supports our Installation Energy and Water Plan,” explained Lt. Col. Trent Colestock, DRFTA garrison commander. “By prioritizing resilient energy and water supplies, this enables our critical facilities and infrastructure to remain operable during times of disruption. In return, our Soldiers and our tenants remain operational and agile to meet the needs of the mission.”