Stories of short supplies for American forces in Iraq, such as inadequate body armor or unshielded Hummers, have been around since the war began. CBS affiliate KHOU-TV in Houston has discovered that some soldiers were forced to ration water, perhaps as little as 2-3 liters per day, because there was never enough.
It is less than the one gallon minimum a day that an Army manual says is necessary just to survive in a desert environment. In fact, an Army training document on preventing heat casualties states that water losses in the desert can reach 15 liters (about four gallons) a day per soldier.
Army Staff Sgt. Dustin Robey told KHOU correspondent Jeremy Rogalski that soldiers would throw up or pass out from dehydration.
Chronic dehydration can lead to such problems as kidney stones, urinary infection, rectal afflictions and skin problems, and can have long-term health problems, including kidney injury.
Robey said in 2003 his company would run out of water on missions, forcing them to improvise, like drinking water from whatever taps they found.
Unfortunately, the often-untreated Iraqi water can cause intestinal illnesses. Robey said 50 to 60 members of his company got dysentery.
Desperate, Robey said he and his commander were reduced to stealing water from supplies stored at Baghdad International Airport.
They found plenty, in the hands of civilian contractors who Robey claims were supposed to be distributing it to soldiers.
"You just had pallets upon pallets upon pallets of (bottled) water," Robey said.
According to Private Bryan Hannah, in 2007 his lieutenant said that they didn’t have enough water and he was told, "Go find some."
Hannah and his fellow soldiers did just that, finding it once again at a civilian contractor facility.
While many soldiers have said they had adequate access to water, and even Gatorade, KHOU found that the differing experiences seemed to have a great deal to do with when and where a soldier was deployed in Iraq, and their assignment.
In 2008 at Camp Taji, Sgt. Casey J. Porter videotaped the water - yellow and filthy - that came out of pipes in the soldier's showers and bathroom sinks. Yet the camp itself looked more like a mall, fitted with franchises and shops, than a war zone.
"You can eat Subway, Burger King, you can buy a $1,200 Oakley watch, but you can’t have clean water to brush your teeth with? What's the real priority here?" Sgt. Porter told KHOU.
The water was supposed to be processed by Houston-based company KBR.
KHOU's Rogalski says that an internal KBR report reveals "massive programmatic issues" with water for personal hygiene at its Iraq facilities dating back to 2005, and outlines how there was no formalized training for anyone involved with water operations.
Former KBR employee and whistleblower Ben Carter told KHOU that he discovered that soldiers' sinks at Camp Ar Ramadi were pouring out untreated wastewater. He described showers as "essentially a sauna of microorganisms. Your eyes, ears, anyplace there's a cut, a person would be at risk of containing a pathogen," Carter said.
Carter says he received a verbal lashing from KBR supervisors when he raised his concerns.
KHOU obtained a statement from the Multi-National Force in Iraq press office which read, "We have a proven system that works. Commanders at all levels do their utmost to provide the necessary resources required to sustain the force."
KBR told KHOU that a Department of Defense Inspector General's report has concluded "KBR has (since) satisfied applicable water standards," adding that "the DoD has not found any illness which it attributes to water in Iraq."
Staff Sgt. Dustin Robey disagrees. He says he's passed hundreds of kidney stones since returning form Iraq, and because of his condition the Army forced him to retire. His family is now facing foreclosure.
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