Water resilience is increasingly crucial to maintaining mission assurance across the Department of the Air Force.
Growing water availability challenges affecting water quality, quantity, and access – including severe weather, competing uses, increased demand from population growth, and aging infrastructure, threaten DAF’s continued ability to achieve its mission to fly, fight and win in air, space, and cyberspace.
In honor of World Water Day, DAF is highlighting its suite of water resource management initiatives to assess and address water availability across the Enterprise.
“The Department of the Air Force is developing systems and capabilities to delineate our water challenges and opportunities, and our dependence on this vital resource for mission assurance,” explained Ms. Nancy Balkus, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety, and Infrastructure. “We continue to advance water assessment tools and resilience initiatives to counter projected water vulnerabilities, increase preparedness, and safeguard one of the most precious resources for mission success now and into the future.”
The Installation Water Dashboard, an interactive data repository, serves as the information backbone of the DAF’s water resilience portfolio. The Dashboard stores installation-specific information, including infrastructure age and condition, water rights, regional water risks, treatment and water capacities, and regulatory information.
To further enhance this tool, the DAF is employing the Water Dashboard Scorecard, a new feature of the Water Dashboard that will assess individual installations’ risk of future water scarcity. The Dashboard Scorecard assigns resilience risk scores by compiling installation data and regional climate outlooks, allowing DAF to prioritize water resilience projects and streamline funding to installations most at risk.
The DAF is already putting these tools to work to assess regional water vulnerabilities. Leveraging the Water Dashboard and the Scorecard, as well as open-source databases, the DAF, in partnership with the Air Force Institute of Technology, is studying the long-term effects of water scarcity and aridification in the southwestern United States on installation missions.
The study will examine the long-term sustainability of aquifers and rivers the DAF relies on for water supply, providing a comprehensive picture of the installations most likely to be impacted by droughts and water scarcity.
Accordingly, the DAF is also developing a new framework to assess each installation’s ability to respond to acute water shortages and identify key infrastructure assets needed for mission success. The table-top approach, called a Water Risk and Resiliency Exercise, will bring together installation stakeholders to map out critical water requirements, gather relevant documents, and simulate an extended, unplanned water outage in order to evaluate system capabilities and operational impacts.
Water Risk and Resiliency Exercises will be incorporated into existing DAF resilience exercises such as Energy Resilience Readiness Exercises or Risk and Resilience Assessments to holistically evaluate mission vulnerabilities.
These initiatives increase the readiness of our warfighters and installations to face the ever-evolving threats to water quality, quantity, and access and ensure that we have adequate water when and where needed for continued mission success.