Sustaining life at Davis: Water

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This week at Davis: 21 January 2011

This week's news is brought to you by the Davis Historical Society (membership of one) and continues the very infrequent look at life at Davis in years gone by. Carrying on from Water at Davis (27 Feb 2009) and Station Life at Davis in 1957 (3 Sept 2010), the theme this time will be the difference between Davis today and Davis in the very early years.

There are four main functions of the Station to sustain life: water, food, power and heat.


In the early years, water was obtained in winter by using heat exhaust from the engines to melt ice. In summer, a solar still was used to desalinate seawater. Fresh water was a major concern and the Chief Engineer of the Kista Dan rigged up a distilling plant with two electric elements. The solar still to produce fresh water from salt water was one of many different methods adopted over the next 50 years to supply adequate fresh water at Davis. The black cylindrical container with tap and length of hose was designed to store seawater.

Today a Reverse Osmosis water treatment plant is used at Davis to carry out the same basic task. It produces 75,000 litres per day during January and stores 1.5 million litres to supply the station for the next 12 months. It has no ability to make water over the winter period.

Solar still
Solar still at Davis in 1958
(Photo: Peter King)
Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment Plant
A new Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment Plant was installed at Davis in…
(Photo: Mark Pekin)
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