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Q: How is drinking water stored, purified and safeguarded on USS Battleships, etc ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: How is drinking water stored, purified and safeguarded on USS Battleships, etc
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: stockzguy-ga
List Price: $6.00
Posted: 13 Jun 2002 01:30 PDT
Expires: 13 Jul 2002 01:30 PDT
Question ID: 25135
How is drinking water stored, purified and safeguarded on all USS
Battleships, Destroyers and Aircraft carriers. How is the water
transferred? Is it from shore to shore or ship to ship while the ship
is under steam? Also, what do they do with the garbage on board? And
where does the waste water go. While we are on the subject, same
questions only this time, for USS submarines, that can stay under for
many months. Thanks

Request for Question Clarification by politicalguru-ga on 13 Jun 2002 02:52 PDT
Dear Stock Guy, 

Do you look for a description of the solutions in every marine vehicle
or for a general information on the type of solutions that are being

Political Guru
Subject: Re: How is drinking water stored, purified and safeguarded on USS Battleships, e
Answered By: fugitive-ga on 13 Jun 2002 06:27 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
I'm going to jump in and answer this from personal knowledge, as well
as point you to some more concrete resources. FYI, I am a US Navy
veteran who served most of four years in the late 1980's on an Oliver
Hazard Perry class Frigate (FFG). As a point of order, technically
there are currently no commissioned Battleships (BB classification) in
the United States Navy. The broader term "Naval vessel" is usually
used in referring to the array of ships in the fleet. I'll give you my
personal knowledge on these topics, then list a couple of resources
which you can consult for more details.


The terminology you want to use when you do any searching on this
subject is "potable water" as well as "distillation" and
"desalinization." When in port, fresh water hoses are run from the
shore to the ship, filling tanks designated to hold "potable water."
At sea, distillation/desalinization is indeed used to replenish the
fresh water tanks. A nightly report is made to the Officer of the Deck
(OOD) when underway as to the percent of potable water in these tanks.
If water use is too high, things like showering are restricted until
the freshwater tanks reach a certain level.

Note that saltwater is used where freshwater isn't strictly required,
such as for sewage purposes (the toilets, or "heads" on board are
normally flushed with saltwater when at sea). When in port, the
freshwater being piped in is often used to purge the saltwater pipes
as they do get rancid (saltwater with sewage is great for breeding
nasty stuff). The enlisted personnel who maintain the water systems
are called BOILER TECHNICIANS. It's a nasty, hard job. Think of them
as the Navy's super plumbers (and I mean that as a BIG compliment).

When in port, Naval vessels are normally required to retain their
sewage. It wouldn't do to be pumping one's nastiness into San Diego
Harbor, would it? THAT'S the regulation, BUT, accidental (and
sometimes not so accidental) discharges do occur. However, I feel
confident in saying that US Navy vessels are probably among the most
rigorous ships on the planet at adhering to environmental 

There are regulations as to how far at sea (how far from a coastline)
a Naval vessel must be before discharging waste water - i.e., the
untreated wastewater is spewed into the ocean, but only when out far


There are regulations for this as well. In practice, we regularly
threw our trash overboard when at sea. Regulations, as with waste
water discharge, are affected by WHERE a vessel is. On short cruises
off the coast of California we usually kept our trash, offloading it
whenin port. Sometimes tactical considerations made us hold on to our
trash also. That is, leaving a trail of garbage behind you is a good
way to be found (a twisted version of Hansel and Gretel when you think
about it). But. I have vivid memories of following an Aircraft Carrier
(USS Ranger) looking at a swath of garbage miles long floating behind
it. Carriers carry up to 6,000 people - imaging the garbage produced
by a town that size on a daily basis and you get the idea.

As with all military questions, there is seldom a simple, single,
airtight answer. One normally has to look at a number of regulations
(which may even conflict). Hence I direct you to ...

   Resources to Consult:

A good search string to use on something like, say, Google(!) that I
recommend is:

   Naval regulations trash disposal at sea 

Using that, I found the following which refer to regulations (which,
again, may differ from actual practice):

   Navy Environmental Documents

With a good specific one on garbage and waste disposal at sea:

   OPNAVINST 5090.1B

Also see:

   Uniform National Discharge Standards (UNDS) Program

If you see PASSWORD REQUIRED (and I don't know why) but you can
apparently get to them anyway (just click around a lot). None of these
appear to be sensitive or classified materials.

Finally, if you go to any Federal Depository Library (check large area
public libraries and most university libraries) they may have
Department of Defense training manuals. If you give me your general
geographic area (City and state?) I can give you a list of area
Depository Libraries. By law they are open to the public. For a
specific manual, I would direct you to:

   Boiler Technician 3&2 (NAVEDTRA 10535-H) SuDoc No.: D 207.208/2:
B63/5 983

Use the "SuDoc" number listed when you inquire about availability.
This specific manual briefly discusses "POTABLE WATER SYSTEMS" (p.
3-32) and more extensively covers the distillation process (pp. 8-44
to 8-50) including a really nice photograph of a "Two-stage, 12,000
gpd flash-type evaporator." (p. 8-48).

Hope this helps, and Fun in the Navy!

Clarification of Answer by fugitive-ga on 13 Jun 2002 07:29 PDT
Here's a VERY interesting resource which may illuminate the
"submarines" part of your question:

   Cassady, Lt. Michael, D. "Risk Analysis of Shipboard Drinking
   18 August 2000

Pages numbered 1-6 (actual PDF pages 6-11) of thiis document give a
concise background on water distillation on Naval Vessels, submarines
and surface. The entire document is worth reading!

stockzguy-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
thanks, that really cleared up a few things about water storage/handling.

Subject: Re: How is drinking water stored, purified and safeguarded on USS Battleships, etc
From: ryandor-ga on 13 Jun 2002 02:20 PDT
Most of this information would be considered sensitive, however, it is
common knowledge that drinking water is actualy made on board the ship
using many industry standard processes. The most common process can be
found by search Google for "water purification seawater".
Good luck in your search
Subject: Re: How is drinking water stored, purified and safeguarded on USS Battleships, etc
From: davidsar-ga on 13 Jun 2002 05:22 PDT
I've done some work in this area (a few years ago).  Much of the
Navy's supply is created on board through desalinization technologies
(chiefly distillation or reverse osmosis).  See, for instance,
Subject: Re: How is drinking water stored, purified and safeguarded on USS Battleships, e
From: missy-ga on 13 Jun 2002 10:13 PDT
Nothing to add, just a smile at the Oliver Hazzard Perry, whose
namesake commanded  a fleet that defeated the British in the Battle of
Lake Erie at Put-in-Bay - a mere 45 minute drive and a short ferry
ride from where I live.

Local pride makes me giddy.  I'll be quiet now.  <*grin*>

Subject: Re: How is drinking water stored, purified and safeguarded on USS Battleships, etc
From: weisstho-ga on 13 Jun 2002 11:07 PDT
As a one-time submariner, I need to chime in:
1.  Fresh water is made, as described above.
2.  Oxygen is produced from electrolysis of sea water
3.  Garbage is compacted, placed into long bags maybe 8" in diameter,
weighted, and shot through a special torpedo tube type of mechanism
specially used for that purpose. The weighted bag sinks. When the sub
operates in an area that it doesn't want to leave calling cards, it
simply stores the compacted trash in the freezer.

Fascinating world, the silent service. 

Subject: Re: How is drinking water stored, purified and safeguarded on USS Battleships, etc
From: embic-ga on 21 Aug 2004 18:10 PDT
Ditto on above answer.  Newer ships use a process called reverse
osmosis, as well as older methods like steam distillers (evaporators),
and electric distillers (stills).  From experience, electric
distillers (or stills) used in submarines are difficult to get going,
since they require a long warmup period, and are very touchy.

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