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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Water purification equipment intended to temporarily ease the U.S. Navy’s reliance on Sasebo water supplies will be packed up and shipped out this month, the base announced Tuesday.

The 10 water purification devices and a detachment of Marines from Okinawa and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni arrived at the base last month when drought conditions shrank reservoirs to a low point, but the devices were never used.

The Navy decided to keep the purifiers idle for weeks while the city considered rationing public water.

Sasebo city officials reported Monday that rationing probably won’t be necessary because recent precipitation increased water levels in the reservoirs from 53 percent to 59 percent of capacity.

The equipment could have cleaned enough seawater to supply the main base boiler plant and the Hario housing complex, which is home to hundreds of families, according to the Navy and Marine Corps.

The Navy called the deployment of the purification devices a success, though no water was produced.

“Up and down the military chain of command, the No. 1 concern was ensuring we had the ability to produce water,” base commander Capt. Tilghman Payne said in a released statement. “Even though it would not have gone directly into the city reservoirs, it would have augmented the supply and therefore helped our host city.”

Use of the purifiers was cleared by Commander Pacific Fleet in Hawaii and they arrived with their Marine support teams.

The Marines in charge of setting up and operating the purification equipment were sent back to their home bases last month.

Meanwhile, Sasebo Naval Base water consumption dropped 22 percent between October and November and by late December had been reduced by 43 percent, according to figures released this week by the Navy.

The base will continue the water conservation effort for now, Payne said.

“We are glad the U.S. water production units have not been needed, but we were ready to finance and use this measure to support the city during the crisis,” he said.


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