TAMPA, Fla. – Lots of military programs aim to reduce the load on troops — from polymer casings in ammunition to lighter body armor and batteries that last longer. But one vital component to any mission involving humans remains an unwieldy obstacle — water.

Troops can carry an average of 100 ounces of water for a standard dismounted patrol. But in austere conditions, far from resupply, that much water can drain out quickly.

Two items recently featured at the annual National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference aim to solve the water problem in separate ways.

Aqua-Gard is a gel-like substance that fits into a packet about the size of a peanut butter pack from an MRE (or if you’re lucky, a jalapeno cheese spread pouch).

It’s made by Aqua Innovations. Peter De Marco, company researcher and developer, told Military Times that the orange-flavored substance can replace four to five 16-oz bottles of water.

It has a combination of amino acids that helps the body absorb and retain water, which is more slowly metabolized. That would cut weight and resources for dismounted troops, but it also reduces the need to urinate, a problem for pilots.

Gabriel Castillo, the company’s vice president of business development, said that it is currently being tested by U.S. Air Force pilots.

Another water solution is to take what’s available and make it safe for consumption.

That’s the work done by Survivor Military, a company that makes a water purifier that comes in multiple configurations, all using the same basic filter. The filter instantly cleans the water, making brackish liquid into potable water.

One filter will make up to 750 L — or 1,400 standard water bottle refills — safe to drink, said company spokesman Jon Grant.

The company has European clients that include military units in Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

They have the filter system in variants from a Camelbak style carrier to a water pouch that a downed pilot or soldier can use to quickly scoop up water then filter, rather than using the straw-pump combination.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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