How to Distill Clean Drinking Water in Emergency


Introduction: How to Distill Clean Drinking Water in Emergency

This method is simple what is needed is 2 steel drums preferably lined, large cooking pots will work a shovel some firewood or other heat one long piece of sheet metal and about 20 concreate blocks or a mud wall and any water source preferably freshwater from a river or lake or even rain water.

As we all know sometimes you have to save your selves and some people need this kind of thing for daily life in third world country's,even in the U.S during natural disasters a temporary solution is needed.

Step 1: Step1

first dig a small whole and enclose the whole on three sides with either concreate blocks or a mud retaining wall for insulation and set three blocks/Rocks around the whole to hold the heated drum above a fire.

Step 2: Step2

Now arange the drums in place add the sheet metal, just lean it in till it locks in place, curve it a bit so it will retain the steam more giving it time to form droplets and cool and run down the sheet metal into the catch drum. The cold catch drum is where the drinkable water is and the hot drum is where you add the river water to be distilled.

I know this is simple not to needed in most cases but isnt it beter to be over exposed than unprepared.

This would also make an excelent science demo project for kids.



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    16 Discussions

    I was a redcross volunteer during katrina, my group was there eger to go the day before the storm yet was also retained a full week and legally bound not to go on our own. when we actualy did get there I seen alot of the things that where most needed and could have provided if not for the legal restriction. So now I want to post this device for general knowlage, it is simple yet will in eight hours make enough water for a group of 30 for drinking, meals and bathing aswell as the fact the fire is used and coals can be pulled out next to this setup to build a cooking area. The distilled water made by this system may get some carbon black or ash in it but both are sterile and also safe for consumption In emergency situations people sometime will resort to natural water which can in most instances be risky/dangerous and if possible be avoided. Something this simple could save lives in parts of the world where clean safe water is unatainable and any one who is involved in volunteer, missionary work or is a survivalist should know about this simple device.

    4 replies

    This device isn't quite up to snuff. Boiling and condensing water alomg with its contaminants is less effective than simple boiling water in a pot and letting it cool as one can boil it longer and kill of bacteria. Useful distillation is fractional in nature. In other words certain oils and the like will boil off before 212F is reached. One does not wish to recapture those distillation products for drinking water. Only the water is boiled at 212F and that is all one wishes to capture. If the heat goes higher then heavy products will boil and be condensed so temperature control is vital. For survival simply bring a large pot of water to a boil for thirty minutes or so and let it cool.

    Why not just let the water boil for 5 mins to get rid of the oils first.

    If you're really interested in providing a low-tech method of water distilling for impoverished areas, I would suggest doing a little research into "rocket stoves", and re-doing this instructable to make use of the very fuel-efficient nature of the rocket-stove design. If you dig around, there are videos out there on how to assemble a simple rocket-stove out of bricks. Some experimentation should give you the ability to come up with a design that services large numbers of people and uses easily gathered materials efficiently. Good luck!

    sounds like a wonderfull Idea for an instructable sir why dont you post it? My only intennsion was to have a high volume device posted here for the public to access I never intended high tech, but the idea sounds good you should post it! all the other post of distilled water was low volume plastic bottles and such no real help in disaster situations you are welcome to use any of my drawings to post the addition of a rocket stove too and then credit goes where it is due to you who had the idea to improve it too.

    Nice instructible, I can see where this could be very effective.  Simple availible materials, would also offer a source of warmth if the weather was cold.

    It always amazes me how easy people like to become armchair survivalists.  I always wonder how many of these people will be the ones huddled together in the shelters.

    Yes it is really possible to make drinkable water out of saline water. There exist some power plants where the process is going.
    First they pump the water from the sea to huge storage tanks and this water after filtering it will be pumped to the boiler unit where it will be heated and boiled. than the water steam produced will be sucked by the turbine and circulate in a system (network) till it cool down than stored in tanks waiting to take it to labs for adding all the chemicals. You can find more information here
    <a href=> details </a>

    As for boiling and condensing not removing the volatile contaminants, you can make a filter by taking a clean coffee can, punching a hole in the side towards the bottom. Put a few inches of CLEAN sand in the bottom of the can then put in a few inches of activated charcoal, or plain charcoal if activated is not available. DO NOT use the stuff you use at cookouts. Do a search for making activated charcoal -- there are a couple of methods available. Cover the charcoal with another layer of CLEAN sand. Pour the water through this filter and the result should have any volatiles filtered out.

    As a Mission Manager in the Eastern Cape of South Africa in 02 and 03, to maintain quality of water in our cisterns (primarily rain water gathered from the roofs and filtered through screens) I would dump a quart bottle of bleach in the tank once a month or so. I was also told by a gentleman from Texas that when he was young, they would filter their water through a bale of hay.

    I think this is a good instructable. Everyone is being too critical. I know there are better ways of doing this, but in a disaster situation, you may not have all of the materials to make this perfect, and in this case, this device is very useful because it is so simple, and life saving.

    Yes, it works. And far better than dig a hole, use a plastic sheet, a stone and a cup method wich takes forever to generate a small amount of water.

    At the big flooding in germany in 2003 we improvised a device made of two pressure cookers and built a distillery to support 16 people. However, as soon as we had produced our first batch of water, a THW helicopter brought bottled water. Still, it was fun ;).

    1 reply

    Thanks for the post, I am sorry to hear you where effected by the flood but at the same time glad you are capable of surviveing in hard situations such as this. I am now collecting information for my next instructable that will help identify and show how to prepare thousands of different foods that grow in the wild on every continent. I remain absolutly ashamed that people/children starve to death and die still in this century even in America, I just cant understand it. I know most people today think all food comes prepackaged in a box or from a store with a name brand. "I know I will survive if I have to eat the dog-or an animal rights activeist for that matter". I just can't get over the fact that the people will change the world and move mountains, if it comes to proffit/entertainment"like the olympics,NFL,NBA,PGA,NASCAR,even Politics" Billions spent each day just on marketing. but who will change a thing just to be doing good?

    this absolutly dose work,even though carbon black"soot" can get in it is sterile, or it can be filtered out by use of any cloth or media The point here is safe to drink not Avion for sale. Now if in emergency like hurricane or flood or war for that matter,if you get tired of drinking your own pee or seawater or sewer you can have some of my soot water.

    I know that the carbon is edible (they give it to people who OD), but there are much simpler ways to do this without getting any of the soot in it. You can use two pots inside of each other with a cover on the larger one and nothing will get inside it.

    Thing is, with the "small scale" atempts you cant service as many people, and like I said carbon can be strained out and the water is bacteria free parisite free chemical free. Still serviceing 30 or so people. I can build an actual seperator from the eye/element of an old coffee pot but it "requires electricity" though it can handel up to 80 or so people. but this post was for emergency as in natural disaster i.e-"no power,lots of people". I appreciate the offering of the two pots though.