There are serious ideas, if not quite yet plans, for space missions to the Moon and Mars to take advantage of in situ resources, such as producing oxygen for propulsion (e.g. for a sample return) out of Mars' atmosphere or from water ice on the Moon. This is of course considered because space flight is expensive per kilogram launched from Earth. There's some similarity with research stations in the Antarctic with fairly expensive logistics. So I wonder if they somehow are living off the land to cut costs.

Do research stations use the local water, or is even water for showering flown in by airplanes?

  • $\begingroup$ Coastal stations often use fresh water from a nearby lake or dam. During the winter, hot water is pumped into the dam to melt more water. Remote camps without access to fresh water often melts snow and firn. The power generators need cooling, so they are also used to produce drinking water from firn. The water is deionized and must be salted before drinking. $\endgroup$
    – user2821
    Sep 17, 2017 at 3:24

2 Answers 2


The Australian and Belgian Antarctic research stations use local resources for their respective water supplies.

Australia operates a number of stations. In the past, snow was melted but currently local melt water is processed and used. However, the Australian base, Casey, also melts ice and the Mawson base also melts snow.

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.

The Belgian, Princess Elisabeth base, melts snow to obtain water. The Belgians, as do bases from other countries, also use renewable sources of energy, namely, wind and solar, via wind generators and solar panels. The Australian base at Mawson has two wind generators that supply 95 percent of the stations energy requirements

The US base at Mc Murdo, operated a nuclear reactor for electricity generation, for 10 years, until 1972. It produce over 78 MWh or electricity and 13 million gallons (49.21 ML) of fresh water.

Diesel generators still produce much of the electricity used at Antarctic stations.

The French base, Dumont d'Urville, obtains fresh water by desalinating sea water.

Food is delivered to all the stations from outside because the Antarctic Treaty, bans the eating of anything originating from the continent. This prevents fishing and eating seals or penguins, or any other fauna or flora.

Waste water from bases is treated before being discharged.

The mining of minerals and the exploitation of oil and gas from Antarctica is still banned.


Limited amounts of plant foods are sometimes grown indoors near sunny windows during the Antarctic summer. This doesn't violate the Antarctic treaty, because the plants do not originate in Antarctica but are grown from seeds delivered to Antarctic bases.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, the same could be said of the International Space Station :-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 16, 2021 at 23:52

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