Water water everywhere

This week at Mawson: 6 September 2013

Spare a thought for how important water is to our lives. We humans are made up of approximately 60% water, and we need to take it in to our bodies every day daily to survive. Yet here we are living on a continent which contains approximately 60% of the world’s fresh water, all bound up in a frozen state and not easily accessible. On top of that, we are surrounded by the Antarctic Ocean which is frozen solid as well. Well, let’s have a little look-see at how we obtain our water down here at Mawson, and what happens to it on a daily basis.

First up, water is used daily for cooking in the kitchen. It is used to make up all of our drinking fluids by reconstituting powdered or concentrated products. It is used in our bathrooms and toilets and laundry. It is hydrolysed to generate hydrogen for use by the meteorologists every day.

Water is even used to make birthday cakes.

We initially obtain our water by melting a small portion of the ice plateau up behind the station. This is achieved by circulating hot water through a closed-pipe system which runs into the ice plateau, and the melted water is sucked up into the Pump House. At present, the melt hole is 8.5 metres deep.

From the Pump House, the water it is sent for storage in three huge tanks in the Tank House.

From the Tank House, hot water is circulated all over the Station via our Site Services, a network of heated and insulated pipelines. Note that more heat is added to this system from our Powerhouse generators.

Our Living Quarters have a spiderweb of pipes conveying water into heat exchangers, filters and distributors.

There is even a 5000-litre storage tank which is for emergency use only in case the water-distribution system breaks down.

After the water has been used, all waste goes into a system of drains and holding tanks and filters, once again located in the basement of our Living Quarters.

All waste water from the Station goes to the sewage processing plant where it is treated before disposal.

The processed sewage is pumped out into the local bay in East arm. This sewage is tested regularly to measure the efficiency of the processing plant.

All in all, water is an essential ingredient of life on this planet. It plays a pivotal role in maintaining a human presence in Antarctica.

Photos of wehere water is used:  kitchen, drinks, bathroom, hydrogen generators
Water use in the kitchen, drinks, bathroom, hydrogen generators
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
The chef blowing out candles on his birthday cake
Birthday cake for chef
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Water production
Water obtained by melting some of the ice plateau
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Pumphouse surrounded by snow and ice
Melted ice is then sent to the pump house for distribution to…
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Tank house
Water is then sent for storage in the tank house on the…
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Water storage tanks
Three huge tanks store our melted water
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Mawson site services pipes
Site services pipes distribute the water to Mawson
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Mawson LQ basement
Water coming into the basement of the living quarters.
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Emergency 5000 litre water tank
The emergency 5000 litre tank in the living quarters
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Waste holding tanks
Holding tanks for waste water
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Sewerage treatment tanks
The treatment tanks in the sewerage plant
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)
Sewerage outlet pipes
Pipeline carrying processed sewerage for disposal.
(Photo: Lloyd Fletcher)