Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 8 2009 Contents 23
An engineering regiment from Darwin
(1ceR) has established a Reverse
Osmosis Water Purification unit
(ROWPu) to provide clean water
while the city authorities, in co-
operation with AusAID and the ADF,
assess and repair the city’s main
water supply station.
Leading the water purification plant, Major
(MAJ) Michael Scott said the local authorities
have been a great help in establishing the site.
“Without the Indonesian Army and water
authority, we would not have been able to get set
up so quickly or in the place we are most needed,”
said MAJ Scott.
“We can now begin providing the help that the
local population needs with fresh, safe drinking water.”
Padang’s deputy mayor Mr Mahyeldi visited
the site with the local head of the water authority
to taste the first supplies of purified sea water. He
said this was the first time he had seen sea water
being turned into drinking water.
“It tastes very good, it’s very impressive that
sea water can be turned into drinking water like
this,” said Mr Mahyeldi.
“I want to thank the Australians for their help
and for solving our water problem.”
Echoing Mr Mahyeldi’s words was the
commander joint task force (JTF) 629 Lieutenant
Colonel (LTCOL) Neil Sweeney who thanked the
Australian troops for their hard work in getting the
plant running in such a short time.
“You are providing the most important service
to the people of Padang, this is the most critical
resource that the local population needs right
now,” LTCOL Sweeney said.
With the local population tasting the treated
water for the first time, there was amazement that
water from the sea could be made safe for drinking.
The ROWPU will be providing water to 60 per
cent of the population of Padang after their main
supply station was damaged in the earthquake.
It is estimated up to 78 000 households will be
able to access this fresh water as it is distributed
throughout the community.
The emergency supply of drinking
water can produce at a rate of around
10 000 litres per hour.
The Joint Task Force engineer
assessment team commander, Major
Brent Maddock, said that AusAid had
facilitated a coordinated approach with
local water authorities, French and
German agencies and the ADF to resolve
the town’s water distribution problems.
“AusAid has been essential in
coordinating this combined approach to
solving one of the most pressing
problems the city faces,” Major
“Our water purification
plant capability along with the
water dispersion equipment of
the French and the water testing
ability of the Germans means
we will be able to improve the
availability of water to those who
need it by at least 400 per cent.”
The earthquake caused
considerable damage to a water
supply station that serviced 60 per
cent of the city’s water supply. Running water has
not been available in the poorest region of the
city since the earthquake and people are currently
accessing water from open canals and rivers.
To provide some clean water, the local water
authority has been using twenty 4 000-litre water
trucks to transport water from outlying supply
stations that have not been damaged. Water is being
delivered to twenty 2 000-litre water tanks that have
been located around the city for residents to access.
Keeping up with demand has proven difficult
with the trucks running 20 hours a day and having to
travel a large distance with a small amount of water.
The combined response from Australia, France
and Germany will see the distance water has to be
transported reduced considerably and more water
tanks distributed throughout the community.
“Advance parties have identified locations
for an extra 30 water tanks around the city that
will be provided by France and Germany,” Major
“These will be placed right in the areas
that need them the most and will be close to the
purification plant to reduce transportation times.”
The rapid deployment of this capability is
another example of Australia’s ability to help its
neighbours when called for.
One day was spent assessing what was
needed to provide a clean water system to the city,
followed by half a day fine tuning and coordinating
Twelve hours later, equipment was on an
aircraft bound for Padang and just hours after
arriving on location, the water purification plant
was up and running.
The purification plants are operated by an
eight person team and can provide 200 000 litres
of clean water each day, running 24 hours a day
and are fully self-sufficient.
Arriving with the water purification plants
were two engineering specialists who will be
assessing how to repair the damaged water
supply station. The station suffered damage to
water pipes which are being repaired by the local
water authorities. However, the station remains
Once this supply station is repaired and
functioning, local authorities will be able to
determine what other damage has been done to
the water supply system that supplies a large
majority of the towns’ water.
defence magazine ›
ABOVe: sapper Jonathon Tidboald places a water pipe into a
staging tank as the first salt water is pumped through the Australian
Defence Force's Reverse Osmosis Water Purification unit.
It tastes very good, it’s very impressive
that sea water can be turned into
drinking water like this. I want to thank
the Australians for their help and for
solving our water problem.
Padang Deputy Mayor, Mr Mahyeldi Ansarullah
Padang's Deputy Mayor, Mr Mahyeldi Ansarullah,
the Head of Padang's Water Board, AusAID's sam
zappia and Major Michael scott taste the first glasses
of fresh water from the Reverse Osmosis Water
By Leading Seaman Imagery
Specialist Paul McCallum and
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