Macca is surrounded by water and averages 900 mm rainfall per year, but collecting it and turning it into a potable supply comes with its own unique challenges. This season we have 21 thirsty expeditioners to keep hydrated.
In theory it sounds easy, collect the rainwater from the roof of the station structures, store it in holding tanks and treat it for future use. But Macca doesn’t flow like that. Our station is at sea level and three things you count on here are rain, big surf and high winds. With all that combined, collecting rainwater at sea level is not an option, due to high salt levels.
One way to avoid the sea spray is to go up high, 180 metres above sea level. Nestled near the top of Gadgets Gully, you will find Gadgets Dam; this is where all the station's potable water supply is collected. From Gadgets Dam the water travels approximately 2 km back to the holding tanks on station. Resident Dr Dane tests the water for pH, conductivity, turbidity and coliforms. These tests determine if there is bacteria or other organisms in the water and if, after being treated, the water is fit to drink. After the treatment and tests the water passes through a UV treatment system and multiple filters before being made available as drinking water. Once a year the water is tested for heavy metals. EASY!
But things can get a little icy here, and Macca likes to throw a curve ball in there now and again. This season we have had earthquakes, landslips, a frozen dam, and on multiple occasions frozen pipework, burst pipes and nesting wildlife preventing us from accessing certain areas. When the closest plumbing suppliers are over 1500 km away by ship, and there is no backup to rely on, it certainly emphasises the importance of maintaining a stable, clean supply.
Ultimately it is up to the two resident plumbers to keep the water flowing on Macca, but as a small community everyone here is ready to pitch in to assist. Whether it be conserving water daily, implementing water restrictions during the frozen days, shovelling sediment out of our dam, or abseiling down a gully to repair pipework, it can be all hands on deck at any time to keep the water flowing.