why don't alaskans melt snow for water

Why Don’t Alaskans Melt Snow for Water? Famous for its frozen landscapes and extreme winter conditions, Alaska presents distinctive obstacles in terms of obtaining clean drinking water.

Although snow is often perceived as a plentiful and easily accessible source, residents of Alaska frequently opt against melting snow for drinking purposes.

But, the question remains, “Why do they refrain from using melted snow for hydration? 

Alaskans do not melt snow for water because of the energy-demanding procedure of snow melting, the limited moisture level of snow and the danger of hypothermia.  

Can You Drink Melted Snow to Survive?

can you drink melted snow to survive

In situations where survival is at stake, it becomes imperative to ensure continuous availability of uncontaminated drinking water.

In the event that you come across a winter wilderness setting, it could be worth considering melted snow as a viable option for obtaining hydration.

However, is it possible to consume liquefied snow for survival purposes?

Yes, there is an answer, but it comes with a few important conditions. 

Factors to Consider Before Drinking Melted Snow

factors to consider before drinking melted snow

Each snowflake is unique, and consuming the incorrect variety or untreated snow can result in severe health complications.

Here is a bit about why shouldn’t you eat snow for hydration:

Issues with Purity

To begin with, it is important to grasp that snow is more than just solidified H2O.

It may consist of different impurities, like:

  • Carbon particles
  • Animal excrement
  • Other contaminants from the surroundings

Freshly fallen snow, in its white glory, is often considered the epitome of cleanliness. However, even this pristine blanket of snow can harbor minuscule organisms within its delicate structure. 

An Important Consideration

Steer clear of snow that has an unusual hue, as it may indicate the presence of impurities.   

The Impact of How You Consume Snow

the impact of how you consume snow

It is important to avoid consuming snow directly.

Consuming snow has the potential to lower your body temperature, which could result in hypothermia, a serious and potentially fatal condition.

Converting snow into water inside your body requires more energy compared to melting it externally. 

An Important Consideration

Heating melted snow to its boiling point is an effective method to eliminate the majority of harmful bacteria and parasites.

In order to accomplish this, you will require a heat source and a vessel capable of enduring elevated temperatures. 

The Absence of Flavor

the absence of flavor

A disadvantage of melted snow is its absence of flavor.

Because of its minimal mineral composition, melted snow can often have a dull or bland flavor. Although this is not detrimental, it could be disagreeable.  

Fact: Although drinking melted snow can help with hydration, it should only be seen as a final option when there are no other cleaner water sources accessible.   

Why Don’t Alaskans Melt Snow for Water?

alaskans snowmelt water explanation

Alaska’s cold weather ensures that snow remains a constant presence throughout a considerable portion of the year.

Here is a bit more about some facts related to snow:

SnowTechnical Details
Snowfall frequencyHigher in winter months
Snow-to-water conversion ratio1 unit of water requires approx. 10 units of snow
Average Annual precipitation in Alaska16ft
The melting point of snow32F
Impurities in snowSoot, dirt, microorganisms, pollutants
Colored snowMay contain algae and harmful substances
Snow compositionAir, ice crystals, impurities

From an external perspective, it may appear reasonable for residents of Alaska to rely on snow as their main water source. However, the reality is quite different.

While melted snow can be used as a backup water supply, it is not typically the primary source of water.

Here are some possible explanations as to why residents of Alaska typically refrain from melting snow for their water supply:

Energy Expenditure in Melting Snow

energy expenditure in melting snow

In Alaska, residents avoid using snow for hydration because of the high energy requirements involved in the process.

Obtaining water from melted snow involves a series of processes, such as:

  • Gathering the snow
  • Warming the snow
  • Filtering the snow

These steps demand significant quantities of fuel and time.

In the icy Alaskan climate, it would be more efficient to utilize these precious resources for warming residences and guaranteeing survival during harsh weather circumstances.

Therefore, it is more feasible for residents of Alaska to depend on alternative water sources that do not require excessive energy consumption. 

Fact: Instead of melting, Alaskans use snow to insulate and protect structures, such as sod houses and igloos.

The Low Water Content of Snow

the low water content of snow

Alongside the energy-demanding task of melting snow, residents of Alaska also refrain from relying on snow for hydration because of its limited water content.

The composition of snow is primarily air, resulting in a notable decrease in its overall water concentration.

This implies that the resulting water output is unexpectedly restricted despite gathering a significant quantity of snow.

Fact: It typically requires about ten units of snow to generate a single unit of water, on average. 

The Impurities in Snow

the impurities in snow

The existence of impurities is one of the main factors that Alaskans consider when avoiding the use of snow for hydration.

While snow may seem pure, it has the potential to contain a range of impurities, such as dirt, soot, and pollutants.

Colored snow is a cause for concern due to its potential association with dangerous substances or microorganisms.

Drinking water from polluted snow can negatively impact your well-being, possibly resulting in various health issues. 

The Risk of Hypothermia

One major element that discourages residents of Alaska from utilizing snow for hydration is the potential danger of hypothermia.

Hypothermia is a condition that occurs when the body experiences a rapid loss of heat, causing the internal temperature to drop to a dangerously low level.

the risk of hypothermia

Consuming frigid snow directly has the potential to decrease the body’s internal temperature, which may lead to serious health issues.

This is especially true in the harsh winter climate of Alaska.

In light of the already demanding and icy conditions, the consumption of snow as a water source raises the chances of encountering hypothermia.

Therefore, residents of Alaska place great importance on preserving their core temperature and preventing hypothermia

Impact on Local Ecosystems

impact on local systems

Avoiding the use of snow for hydration is a crucial practice for Alaskans due to the significant impact it has on local ecosystems.

The elimination of significant quantities of snow has the potential to disturb nearby ecosystems.

This may result in negative consequences for the flora and fauna that depend on the snowpack for various reasons, such as:

  • Insulation
  • Safeguarding
  • Nourishment

Disturbing habitats and natural processes may result in ecological imbalances and potentially pose a threat to specific species.

An Important Consideration

The carbon emissions caused by the energy-intensive task of melting snow worsen the effects of climate change and its related environmental consequences.   

The Availability of Public Water Systems

the availability of public water systems

One of the main factors that Alaskans do not depend on snow for hydration is the increased accessibility and reliability of more convenient water sources.

Public water systems effectively provide treated and potable water directly to residences and commercial establishments in urban and suburban regions.

These mechanisms guarantee a steady and dependable water provision, eradicating the necessity for inhabitants to undergo the energy-consuming procedure of thawing snow

The Role of Wells

the role of wells

Even in remote areas, numerous Alaskan households have the privilege of accessing well water.

When wells are built and taken care of correctly, they can offer abundant and dependable water sources.

This makes them a more favorable choice compared to the arduous process of gathering and filtering snow.

Fact: The convenience and dependability of public water systems and wells offer viable options for obtaining hydration in Alaska, rather than relying on snow. 

The Availability of Natural Water Bodies

the availability of natural water bodies

Alongside public water systems and wells, residents of Alaska benefit from plentiful natural water sources, reducing their dependence on snow for staying hydrated.

Collecting and treating rainwater has the potential to offer a significant amount of potable water.

Alaska is renowned for its abundant rivers and lakes, providing ample amounts of water that can be filtered for drinking purposes.

In addition, subterranean aquifers act as concealed storage units, granting access to dependable and steady water supplies. 


Why don’t Alaskans melt snow for water? Snow melting is a highly energy-consuming procedure that, when combined with its limited water content and impurities, results in an ineffective and potentially detrimental choice.

Using snow for hydration is discouraged due to the increased risk of hypothermia and the negative effects it can have on local ecosystems.

Thankfully, residents of Alaska are fortunate enough to have a variety of practical options available to them, including public water systems, wells, etc. 

And that is why they do not have to melt snow for water.