Why we don’t melt snow for general water use?


We only use snow and ice to melt it into drinking water. It is a very slow proces. The best way to understand why we don’t choose to use it for housekeeping, hygiene and general purpose, is by placing you in the situation we live in.

Read my story and take now and then the time to close your eyes to be in it. Let’s begin.

Imagine this

You live in a tiny house of 28 square metres. Not much bigger than a grand livingroom. It consists out of one space where in you live cook, eat, sleep, shower and do the laundry with two persons.

And than your tapwater stops running, but lucky enough a layer of fresh snow has fallen. Only the chickens and the soot from the chimney has poluted it. So the best thing to do is to walk about 20 meters from the house to scoop the beautiful white stuff in two 45 liter boxes where in you will melt the water. The leaves and pine neadles that are mixed in it, you’ll deal later with.

The only heating in your tiny house is a wood stove where next to it is just enough space to pile the two boxes with snow. After two days of patience and burning more wood than you wanted, you finaly have water.

But than you discover the 90 litres off snow becomes only 20 litres of water. Just enough for the amimals and you to drink. For doing the dishes, washing hands, underwear and hygiene purposes you need at least 20 to 25 litres of water per person per day extra. That is a total of 100 litres of water at a minimum you need for two persons per two days.

Now you start to ask yourself: “How am I going to melt so much snow in such a short time? Are 10 boxes of 45 litres going to fit in my tiny house with only one room of 28 square metres? Can a wooden floor resting on a pilar foundation carry so much weight on a small surface?”

This 200 liter container with snow was good for only 50 litres of water and took more than 10 days to melt.
This 200 liter container with snow was good for only 50 litres of water and took more than 10 days to melt.

One thing is for sure, 10 boxes won’t fit directly next to the wood stove . That means it will take even the double amount of time to melt the snow into water. Do you remember how long it took to melt the ice when you were defrosting your refrigerator?

And fuel, you need so much more wood to warm the house. With minus 20⁰C outside and all this snow inside the temperature hardly reaches a comfortable 14 degrees Celcius. In the night it even drops below the freezing point, because all the boxes with snow start to function as cooling elements.

Leaving the wood stove burning while you are a sleep is no option. Unless you don’t care not to wake up the next morning. To top it of with a bit of bad luck, the already melted water turns back into ice resulting into the cracking of the containers.

Lucky for you the neighbors live only sixty metres from your home, and they have running water too. It would take no more than a five minutes walk to bring two buckets with 12 litres of water back to your house. So what would you do now? Are you still going to melt all that snow?

Instant water

In my case I don’t have neighbors, but instead of that a stream that until now hasn’t frozen shut in winter. A walk up and down to it takes no more than five minutes. instead of a house filled with boxes, scooping snow, breaking ice and chopping extra wood in the freezing cold for at least an hour, I prefer the walk with the cats joining me on my side. For me It is like having instant water.

I use a fifteen litres pan to heat the water on the wood stove. After an hour or so, it will be hot enough for washing, cleaning and doing the dishes. Because there are no boxes with snow taking up all the space, I can in the meantime enjoy myself with reading a book next to the cozy warm fire.

Enjoying the cozy warm fire while reading a book.
Enjoying the cozy warm fire while reading a book.
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