Introduction: Extract Clean, Drinkable Water From Plants

Picture of Extract Clean, Drinkable Water From Plants

Water is the most important thing if you are stuck in the wilderness. Sure, food is important too, but you can live for a while without it; you can't survive more than a few days without water. Unfortunately, in many environments there is either a lack of water, or the water is unsafe to drink. Fortunately, there are often plants. When plants absorb water from the ground they filter out many impurities, and you can extract this clean water from them. Plants transpire water, meaning that water vapor evaporates from the leaves, and this water can be collected. The great thing is, this process doesn't harm the plant and can be repeated over and over again on different branches, and works relatively quickly.

Thanks to everyone who voted for me in the Great Outdoors Contest!

Step 1: What You Need:

Picture of What You Need:

- A plastic bag, preferably clear (check the bag beforehand to make sure it is free of holes. If not, seal them with tape.)
- String
- A plant (I will go over what types of plants work best in the next step)

Step 2: Choosing the Plant

Picture of Choosing the Plant

- The best types of plants are those with large, green leaves. Berry bushes also work well. There is a conspicuous lack of trees in my back yard, so I used a blueberry bush. Avoid toxic plants!
- Select a plant that receives a good amount of sun. The heat from the sun will speed the transpiration process.
- Choose a branch that has a large number of healthy leaves; give it a shake to dislodge any insects or debris that might be on the branch. Place your plastic bag over it. Tie it very tightly; you don't want any water vapor to escape during the process.
- Make sure that part of the bag hangs lower than the point where you tied the bag to the branch. Water will run collect there.
- You will want to have several bags up at once, since one branch doesn't provide enough water to live on. 

Step 3: The Process

Picture of The Process

- It will take about 3-4 hours in sun to get a decent amount of water from the plant.
- After about 30-60 minutes water will begin to condense on the sides of the bag.
- After another hour or so much larger droplets should form. These will start to run down the sides of the bag and collect in the lowest point.
- You should get at least 1/3 a cup of water after 4 hours.
- Before drinking the water pour it through some fabric like a t-shirt to filter out anything that may have fallen into the water.
- Reattach the bag to another branch and restart the process.


jimwi (author)2013-06-23

You should be careful what plants you use. Because some plant and there leaves contain toxins like arsenic and cyanide.So be very careful.

tkjtkj (author)jimwi2013-06-24

that's an interesting point .. Logic suggests both points of view might be true:
1) arsenic, eg, existing in nature as a salt, doesn't evaporate , and/or :
2) 'transpiration' is different from 'evaporation .. and who kNOWS what a plant will decide to do! .. afterall, each instance of noise from a smokey lawn-mower is reason enough for aNY plant to extract revenge .. and what could be more poetic than to extract it while we are extracting what we might think as healthy water!

and remember, all too often it's our own doing that could be our uNdoing .. adding pesticides, etc ..

So, I here request that anyone having access to a chromatograph or spectrograph do a lil testing ... and fill us in !

At same time, this clever device could be life-saving in emergency circumstances .. and costs really nothing in weight/energy/etc to include bags in one's backpack (or watch-pocket!) .. One could even eliminate the weight of the string by tying the end of the bag around the branch in some clever way ...

I like this 'structable!! I'm especially drawn to 'clever simplicity' .. a.k.a. 'exemplified by the paperclip'

Thanks for this one!

EdwinM86 (author)2017-08-19

This can also be done using urine soaked dried leaves, These leaves
need to be suspended on a branch or other item and hung inside the
sealed bag, making sure that none of the leaves will touch the bag. This
method requires using sticks or branches to create a "cage" around the
soaked branch with leaves making certain that the wet leaves do not
touch the sides of the bag.. Not a very appealing idea, but could save
your life.

M3G (author)EdwinM862017-08-19

I didn't know that, thanks for the info!

2wsdesed (author)2017-01-23

this is called transpiration

jOker58 (author)2016-05-06

will this work with a lavender tree

BellaC4 (author)2016-02-07

this really does work I've used it for a school project and was told great idea

SteveSi (author)2015-10-11

Would breathing into the bag before sealing it help (more CO2) or hinder (more moisture/humidity?). Presumably moisture would condense out when the ambient air temperature is cold, so the best time to collect would be in the early morning?

I have heard of getting moisture from the air overnight by stretching a plastic sheet over a hole with a cup underneath and few pebbles in the centre if the sheet.

M3G (author)SteveSi2015-10-12

That is a very good question, I will look in to that!

kenneth k (author)2015-08-05

Great survival tip. Thanks

gaieb (author)2015-05-31

Lets see, you said

You should get at least 1/3 a cup of water after 4 hours. So to get the required 8 glasses a day you would need twenty four of the bags for four hours or twelve if you did each twice during eight hours, I think I need to find a better method of getting water,

p.s. you have the same problem with the hole in the ground covered with plastic, the energy you expend digging the hole will cause you to lose more water than you will gain in a day or two. Ideas that look good until you analyze them better.

elpayo (author)2015-05-12

excelent !!

Sonnodeldrago (author)2014-12-16

I've seen this technique before but never saw instruction on how it works. Great post :) And yes, you must be careful of which plant you use. As for the danger of BPA, this water maker device is used to stay alive in an emergency survival situation. So, even if some BPA does leach I to the water, it cannot hurt you as much as dying of thirst. :)

The1andonlyDaniel (author)2014-11-11

Won't this be toxic? A chemical known as BPA would be released from plastic bags, so it would poison the water? Otherwise, great idea!

M3G (author)The1andonlyDaniel2014-11-11

It shouldn't be toxic; the time the water would be in the bag probably wouldn't be enough for much BPA to be released. Also, BPA is not used in all types of plastic, so it may not even be present. According to an FDA assessment released in March 2013 BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods (Wikipedia).

The1andonlyDaniel (author)M3G2014-11-11

Ok then, thanks

M3G (author)The1andonlyDaniel2014-11-11

No problem!

flashinstructor (author)2014-04-21

smart one. think about it with choosing mangrove plants or trees :)

pertamax11 (author)2014-03-07

This 'ible might become a life saving in emergency cases. Thanks, and Favorited this.

M3G (author)pertamax112014-03-07

Thanks for the kind words!

Southpaw69 (author)2014-01-26

A plentiful, easily accessible source for bags that are perfect for this is the produce aisle at the grocery store!

Get the plastic bags they have on a roll for putting fruits & vegetables in. They are perfect for this. They're a good size, clear, and strong.

M3G (author)Southpaw692014-01-26

Great idea, thanks!

Clarencepercy (author)2013-06-28

If I put a bag over a hop plant will I get beer?

finton (author)Clarencepercy2013-10-22

No, but hop flowers are used to flavour beer, so you might get a beer-flavoured water drink!

bajablue (author)2013-10-20

This is a FANTASTIC idea! Thanks for sharing... and congrats!!!

M3G (author)bajablue2013-10-20

Thank you!

radicalmart (author)2013-10-17

a fantastic but simple instructable as well as being a good recycling idea.

M3G (author)radicalmart2013-10-17


monterreymachito (author)2013-10-02

Simple, cheap, effective. BRAVO!

M3G (author)monterreymachito2013-10-02


serendipitous (author)2013-09-05

amazing!! definitely life-saving knowledge! I would have never thought of it. THANKS!

poofrabbit (author)2013-08-31

Just wanted to say congratulations on being a finalists in the Great Outdoors Contest! Good luck!

M3G (author)poofrabbit2013-09-01

Thank you very much!

Picturerazzi (author)2013-08-31

It's interesting how you cherry-pick replying to the comments with the most praise. Heh.

Tin Man (author)2013-06-28

It may sound silly, but if you are out in the sticks, give the plant a good shake to get rid of poisonous insects, spiders, 'guano', etc.

Picturerazzi (author)Tin Man2013-06-30

Venomous* :D Poisonous suggests eating them would cause poisoning. Venomous means they can bite or sting you with venom.

Kiteman (author)Picturerazzi2013-08-31

Poisonous bugs are also handy to avoid, in case they fall into, and contaminate, the water.

M3G (author)Tin Man2013-06-28

Good point.

jackreiter (author)2013-08-05

can you do this with tree leaves

M3G (author)jackreiter2013-08-05

Yes, that would work great.

M3G (author)jackreiter2013-08-05

Yes, that would work great.

LaffyDuck187 (author)2013-06-29

would poison ivy work or would only the water come out

M3G (author)LaffyDuck1872013-06-29

Poison ivy would be a bad idea, since it would probably release toxins as well.

simayanan (author)2013-06-28

Thank you for this. I have posted the link on Facebook and Pinned it, too. This could save many lives, especially in disaster areas.

Picturerazzi (author)2013-06-28

Nice to know!!! I'm curious though, would sucking on the leaves also give you hydration? Like sage leaves, for instance?

M3G (author)Picturerazzi2013-06-28

I have no idea.

Rohinton (author)2013-06-27

This instructible is the best I've come across ! It is a matter of life or death for a treker who is lost for days without any food and water. Superb idea.! from now on I will make sure I have some plastic bags and some string when going out overnight treking. Thank you !

M3G (author)Rohinton2013-06-28

Thanks for the comment! I always carry a plastic bag and string because they weigh next to nothing and take up barely any space, yet can still save your life.

KOJohnson (author)2013-06-28

Try to avoid toxic plants, by the way.

desertranger (author)2013-06-27

You better have a lot of plastic. Water from plants yields about 1/2 a cup in 8 hours. About as useful as a solar still. Better to keep an good supply of water in yur car.

About This Instructable




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