How do you get fresh water?

Melt bell at Mawson
Melt bell at Mawson (Photo Ewan Curtis)
New Reverse Osmosis unit installed at Davis station

Getting freshwater in Antarctica is quite difficult and time consuming. The exact method used varies between stations. In earlier days, snow and ice was shovelled into large tanks and heated to form water. Today, Casey and Mawson pump water from a melt lake behind the station and store it in a heated tank house.

Davis draws water from a local tarn which is processed by a Reverse Osmosis System which produces about 18,000 litres each 24 hours. The average station demand is around 10,000 – 14,000 litres a day. Macquarie Island draws water from a dam located about three kilometres from the station on the plateau and 200 metres above sea level. The water is pumped to two holding tanks.

Water saving appliances are installed wherever possible, but each person on station is asked to use as little water as possible.

Expeditioners are limited to three minute showers and, when water supplies are short, to only shower every second or third day. Other water saving measures are also followed, such as doing one large load of washing rather than several smaller loads, and turning off the taps while cleaning your teeth.

This page was last modified on 11 March 2003.