Solar Water Distillation
Despite the fact that water is one of the most abundant resources on the planet, there is a high demand for water that is clean and pure. Most of the water on the planet is undrinkable, either because it is salt water from the ocean or because it is polluted to the point that it is dangerous for human consumption.
While most sources of tap water in the US are clean enough to drink, they still have some contaminants and impurities in them. For this reason most people choose to drink cleaner, purified water instead. In fact, some people pay up to $1.50 for a single 20 oz. bottle of pure water.
Because of this high cost and the inconvenience of going to the store every time you need a drink, many people choose to purify their own water at home. There are many different filtration and purification systems available to do this job, but by far one of the cleanest, most productive, and most eco-friendly methods of doing so is solar water distillation.
This may sound far-fetched at first, but the science behind it is actually quite simple. For example, if you have ever let water evaporate from your dishes instead of drying them, you have seen water spots. These water spots are a result of the fact that only pure water can evaporate into the air. When it does, it leaves behind any impurities that were in the water to start with. Hence, you see water spots.
Since water leaves behind all of its impurities when it evaporates, including bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and dirt, getting absolutely pure water through the process of solar water distillation is simply a matter of collecting the water vapor that evaporates and allowing it to condense back into usable water.
As the name suggests, the primary component of action in a solar water distillation system is the sun. Therefore, these systems are most effective in areas where the sun shines constantly and intensely. Assuming that you have picked such a location to distill water, you should be able to get about one gallon every day for every six square feet of sun-absorbing surface you have.
That being said, before you decide to build or install a solar water distillation system, you should determine how much clean water you would like to produce every day so you can determine how large your system needs to be.
If you are building your own system it is important for you to have a basic idea of how these systems work. The whole system is typically shaped like a box, and the top should be coated with a black, heat-conducting material. The inside of the box should be lined with FDA-grade silicon caulking that can safely come in contact with the water you drink.
At the top of the inside of your box you should have a plate of glass that is slanted down toward your water collection area. Evaporated water will collect on this glass and then collect in the area you have designated. While these instructions provide you with a basic idea of the workings of a solar system, you should try to find more detailed plans before actually beginning construction.
Not only are solar water purification systems great for the environment and for your wallet, but they also make great emergency water purification systems. Even if you don’t have a problem drinking the tap water in your area, you never know when disaster will strike and you will need a source of fresh, drinkable water.
Our site has a world of information on emergency water purification methods. It discusses how to find, retrieve and purify both clean and contaminated water. It would also not be a bad idea to read our article on emergency water pouches and keep a quantity on hand for just such an disaster situation..