Rodwell- Our Water Source

Water: Where does it come from, and how do we get it? The answer, Rodwell.

To start, I have only been inside the Rodwell building twice, and have very little knowledge about the whole process, but I will do my best to share the small amount of specifics I have gathered. Please excuse my lack of proper lingo 🙂 It is kind of hard to explain since all I know about it is that I enjoy lots of drinking water, showers and clean clothes.

There have been three Rodwells in the past. These are big holes that are created in the ice by melting snow with warm water in order to get our drinking water. Once the hole is as big as they allow it to get, they move the Rodwell building to a new location and start over. The old hole becomes the outfall for our waste water. S0 right now we have Rodwell 1  which is full and no longer used, and Rodwell 2 which is now our outfall. We’ll focus on Rodwell 3,  where we get our drinking water from. We are drinking some VERY old water!

The water hole or “bulb” is 314 feet below the surface of the ice. Water is collected by a submersible pump located three feet below the water surface. From the submerged pump to the bottom of the hole is another 90.6 ft. full of water. To keep the water warm enough not to freeze, we recirculate water at 89 degrees F by way of garden hose. The water goes from the Rodwell into the tunnel system (will show pictures in another post) and ultimately to the elevated station. All of this water is constantly moving so the pipes will not freeze. From the tunnels, the water goes into tanks in the water treatment plant attached to the power plant (also another post coming soon) where it is treated and tested before consumption.

A few years back the submersible pump actually became frozen in place and the station was on snow melt for a number of days over the winter. The community relied on equipment operators bucketing large amounts of clean snow into the snow-melter over that period. Which resulted in limited showers and laundry during that time until they remedied the issue. Luckily, we have had no such trouble yet!

Me standing outside of Rodwell 3 a few months back

Our UTs conduct daily checks on the Rodwell to make sure everything is working correctly. There are many gauges they have to pay attention to, as pressure, and water temperature are extremely important. You can also see two hoses in the picture on the right, one hose is warm water going into the hole and the other is our drinking water being taken from the hole.

The initial hole is made by this device, sometimes referred to as a hot carrot, as current is applied it heats up, melting the ice around it and creating a hole in it’s wake. This must also be done periodically over the years to combat the pressure of the continent, closing the hole. After an initial hole is drilled, hot water is then pumped into the hole, and recirculated which in turn starts to make a large multi million gallon bulb shaped cavern in the ice. And just like that, water!

This is the device used to melt the ice.


  1. Again, I have learnt something new. We have solar panels on the roof, and there is a thermostat, that circulates the warmer water from the cylinder back through the panels on frosty nights to stop them freezing and splitting .I wonder how people manage in the Arctic.


  2. The Rodwell concept always struck me as simple brilliance. I’m a fan of things practical, simple and beneficial, the Rodwell being all 3. You did a great job describing it to us all. Snow that fell 40,000 years ago and then melted for drinking water is unlike any other you will drink anywhere on the planet.


  3. The “hot carrot”; does it glow orange when heating its way down? And I too was thinking “pure water thousands of years old” until the “garden hose” was mentioned. Now all I can think of is that rubbery taste.

    Very interesting post. As always, thanks so much for sharing!


  4. It is January 3rd and Erick Hansen is supervising pulling the rod up and moving to a new hole. This really explained what he was dealing with. It takes 24 hours straight during which he has to stay awake to assure it goes okay. Seems very stressful.


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