You are currently viewing How to Desalinate Water: Purify & Remove Salt From Water

How to Desalinate Water: Purify & Remove Salt From Water

Turning the vast oceans into a drinkable water supply has long been a challenge, yet it’s increasingly becoming a vital solution for survival techniques.

Through the ingenious application of distillation and reverse osmosis, humanity is unlocking the secrets of the sea, offering a beacon of hope for water-stressed communities around the world.

Key Takeaways:

  • Desalination processes, such as distillation and reverse osmosis, are critical for converting seawater into drinkable water, especially in arid regions and areas with limited freshwater resources.
  • Innovations and improvements in desalination technology are making it more energy-efficient and accessible, potentially serving as a significant source of fresh water for millions globally.
  • While desalination offers promising solutions, it also poses challenges in terms of energy consumption, environmental impact, and the management of byproducts like brine.

Desalination Techniques: Turning Saltwater into drinking water

Prepper on a desolate beach using solar still and distillation for desalination, highlighting resilience and resourcefulness under intense midday sun, showcasing the meticulous process of turning saltwater into drinking water for survival

Distillation Process: Removing Salt from Water

Desalination is the process of removing salt from water to desalinate it, making it safe for consumption.

When dealing with saltwater, the primary method is through distillation.

the typical evaporation rate versus temperature for seawater distillation, illustrating how increased heat accelerates the distillation process

By heating the seawater to create water vapor, the salt is left behind as the water evaporates.

The vapor is then condensed back into fresh water, effectively separating the salt from water to obtain clean, drinking water.

Distillation SetupEfficiency (Liters per Day)
Solar Still1-5
Multi-Stage Flash Distillation1000-10000
Vacuum Distillation500-5000
Single-Stage Flash Distillation500-1000
Reverse Osmosis75-500
Solar-Powered Desalination100-1000
Passive Solar Distillation5-20

Practical Application: Transforming Seawater into Fresh Water

In real-world scenarios, this desalinate water technique can be implemented using a simple distillation setup.

different distillation setups, highlighting their efficiency in the distillation process

By heating the saltwater until it evaporates, the pure condensed water can be collected separately, leaving the salt behind.

This process ensures that only fresh water is obtained, free of any saltwater contaminants, making it safe for consumption.

Solar Still Construction: A DIY Guide for Distilled Water from Seawater

Prepper constructing a solar still on a remote beach, demonstrating the process of distilling water from seawater using sunlight, surrounded by basic tools and natural elements, highlighting DIY ingenuity for fresh water access in survival situations

Harnessing the Power of the Sun

When stranded with only brackish water as a water source, constructing a solar still can be a lifesaver.

the setup of a solar still, including components and angles for optimal sun exposure

As the sun beats down, the still allows the evaporation of saltwater, leaving behind the drinkable water in the form of condensation.

This method provides a way to transform seawater into fresh drinking water without the need for complex tools.

Simple Steps for Survival

To build a solar still in a survival situation:

the steps to build a solar still for survival, highlighting key actions for maximizing efficiency
  1. Start by digging a hole to place the container of brackish water.
  2. Place a cup or small container in the center of the hole.
  3. Cover the hole with a plastic sheet, ensuring it is tightly secured with rocks or soil around the edges.
MaterialPotential Alternatives Found in Nature
Plastic SheetingLarge leaves (banana, palm, etc.), animal hides, bark
Clear Plastic or Glass ContainerHollowed-out gourd, large clamshell, natural resin or sap coating
Collection ContainerBamboo sections, coconut shells, large leaves stitched together
Rocks or BricksNatural stone, wood logs, mud bricks
Insulating Material (e.g., foam, straw)Grass, reeds, dried leaves, animal fur or feathers
Adhesive (e.g., glue)Plant resin, tree sap, natural latex from rubber trees
Solar Absorber (e.g., dark fabric, sand)Charcoal, burnt wood, dark-colored rocks or soil

As the water evaporates, the plastic sheet will collect the condensation, which will then drip into the cup.

This dehydration-preventing method creates a steady supply of safe drinking water through natural osmosis.

Distillation Methods: Purifying Water in the Wild with Heat

Prepper using a makeshift distillation setup to purify water with heat from a fire in the wild, vividly capturing the process of vaporizing and condensing water into a clean container against a backdrop of rugged terrain and sunset, showcasing survival purification skills

Using the Sun’s Heat

When you’re out in the wild and need safe drinking water, harness the power of direct sunlight.

 the relationship between hours of sunlight and the amount of water distilled using solar heat

Here’s how you can purify salt water or seawater to make it safe to drink:

  • Find a solid container to hold the water.
  • Pour the seawater or brackish water into the container.
  • Place a smaller cup in the center of the solid container to collect the distilled water.
  • The heat from the sun will cause the water to evaporate, leaving the salt or impurities behind.
  • As the steam rises, it will condense on the solid container‘s surface and drip into the smaller cup.
  • The collected water will be free of salt and impurities, making it safe to drink.
the optimal setup for maximizing the sun's heat for water distillation, including positioning and materials

Stay Hydrated Efficiently

Learning how to desalinate water using this method can be a lifesaver when you’re stranded without water sources around.

By utilizing the sun’s heat to remove salt from water, you can quench your thirst effectively.

the effectiveness of sun-powered distillation and other distillation methods in terms of volume of water produced

Remember, this technique mimics the process used in a desalination plant, offering a simple yet effective way to purify water in water in the wild scenarios.

Sunlight ConditionTime Required for Purification (hours)
Full Sun4-6
Partial Shade6-8

Reverse Osmosis: Advanced Technology to Desalinate Seawater

Prepper using a portable reverse osmosis device to desalinate seawater on a rugged coast, showcasing the efficient conversion to potable water against a backdrop of nature's challenges and human innovation, illuminated by the late afternoon sun

How Reverse Osmosis Works

Reverse osmosis is an innovative method that turns saltwater into fresh drinking water.

During the desalination process, pressure is applied to push seawater through a semi-permeable membrane.

 the reverse osmosis process at a microscopic level, including water flow through the semi-permeable membrane

This membrane filters out salt and impurities, leaving behind purified water for consumption.

It’s a reliable way to ensure a continuous supply of fresh water where access to safe drinking water may be limited.

the percentage distribution of contaminants removed by reverse osmosis

DIY Reverse Osmosis: Emergency Water Purification

In an emergency, you can create a makeshift reverse osmosis system using basic materials.

the steps to set up a DIY reverse osmosis system using household materials

By filling a plastic bottle with saltwater and creating a small hole at the bottom, you can let gravity pull water through a homemade membrane.

Homemade MembraneEffectiveness
Celery StalkLow
Cellophane WrapLow to Moderate
Coffee FilterModerate
Plastic WrapModerate
Parchment PaperModerate
Eggshell MembraneModerate
Fruit Peels (e.g., banana, apple)Moderate
ClothModerate to High
Layered Paper TowelsModerate to High
Alum-treated PaperHigh
Homemade Composite Membrane (e.g., graphene oxide-based)Very High

As the water level decreases, the remaining water will evaporate, leaving the salt behind.

This simple technique demonstrates how easily you can turn water from seawater into purified drinking water using the desalination process at hand.

Natural Desalination with Plants: A Sustainable Purification Method

Prepper demonstrating natural desalination using plants in a coastal setting, with a system that captures fresh water vapor released by plants, highlighted by lush greenery and golden hour light, showcasing eco-friendly water purification

Using Plants for Desalination

In a pinch, when stranded on an island with only seawater around, plants can be your saving grace for hydration.

The solar distillation method, utilizing the moisture in plants, can be a lifesaver.

 the process of using plants for desalination, showing how plants can be used in solar distillation

Here’s how you can harness this natural desalination method:

  • Dig a hole in the ground and place a bowl at the bottom.
  • Fill the bowl with seawater and add some plants (such as leafy greens) on top.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, securing it tightly around the edges.
  • Place a small condenser or cooling tube at the top of the plastic wrap.
  • Allow the setup to sit for three to four hours under the sun to let the plants work their magic.
  • When ready, remove the plastic wrap and collect the condensed purified water.
 the amount of water purified using different types of plants in a desalination setup

Advantages of Plant-based Filtration

This natural desalination method is an effective way to obtain drinkable water in emergencies.

the advantages of the natural desalination method

It can help you quench your thirst when faced with scarcity.

Using plants for filtration is not that efficient for producing large quantities of purified water, but still a great way to distill water for survival.

MethodEfficiency (Liters of Water Produced in 24 hours)
Plant-Based Filtration10-50 liters
Traditional Filtration50-200 liters

In a scenario where you are stranded on an island, this technique can be a game-changer.

Safe Drinking Water Practices: Storing and Purifying Techniques

Prepper demonstrating safe drinking water practices in the wilderness, collecting rainwater and purifying stream water with portable filters, storing the clear water in containers, highlighted by a dense forest backdrop and dramatic golden light

Water Desalination and Purification

When stranded with only seawater to drink, desalinated water becomes essential for survival.

With nothing but a mug, plastic wrap, and a container in the middleseawater desalination can be achieved through a simple method called distillation.

the cycle of water collection, purification, storage, and reuse in a sustainable living scenario

To execute this, we need to create a low-pressure system to convert seawater into a drinkable form.

Preventing Dehydration Risks

In extreme scenarios, such as being stranded at sea or in the wild without access to drinkable water, the risk of dehydration looms large.

the comparison of dehydration rates with and without access to desalinated water under various conditions

To counter this, it’s crucial to know how to create a makeshift desalination setup to turn seawater into potable water.

the steps to prevent dehydration by utilizing desalinated water effectively

By understanding the basics of distillation, one can ensure the safety of their drinking water.

Everything You Need to Know About Desalinating Seawater

Prepper surrounded by various desalination devices on a remote shoreline, showcasing techniques from solar stills to reverse osmosis, meticulously monitoring efficiency against a backdrop of ocean and rugged landscape at sunset, highlighting survival ingenuity

Understanding Sodium Concentration and Dissolved Solids

When desalinating seawater, it’s important to consider the high sodium chloride and dissolved solids content present in it.

These impurities make the water undrinkable and even thirstier due to the salt content.

Through desalination processes like reverse osmosis or distillation, the removal of these dissolved solids becomes possible, allowing us to provide fresh drinking water.

Desalination TechniqueInitial Sodium Concentration (ppm)Final Sodium Concentration (ppm)Initial Dissolved Solids (ppm)Final Dissolved Solids (ppm)
Reverse Osmosis35,000 – 40,000200 – 50035,000 – 40,000500 – 1,000
Multi-Stage Flash35,000 – 40,000500 – 1,00035,000 – 40,0001,000 – 2,000
Multi-Effect Distillation35,000 – 40,000500 – 1,00035,000 – 40,0001,000 – 2,000
Electrodialysis35,000 – 40,000200 – 50035,000 – 40,000500 – 1,000

Choosing the Right Containers and Dealing with Gaseous Byproducts

When desalinating seawater, containers made of suitable materials such as glass or specific plastics are crucial for the process.

the effectiveness of different water storage containers

These containers should be able to withstand the gaseous reactions that occur during distillation or reverse osmosis.

The byproducts of desalination must also be managed properly to avoid any environmental harm.


What is desalination and how does it work?

Desalination is the process of removing salt and other impurities from water to make it suitable for human consumption. This is usually done by evaporating the water and then condensing the fresh water vapor.

What are some common methods used to desalinate water?

Some common methods used to desalinate water include solar distillation, reverse osmosis, and electrodialysis.

Can you drink saltwater directly from the sea?

No, it is not safe to drink saltwater directly from the sea as it can lead to dehydration. Drinking saltwater can actually worsen your dehydration levels.

What can I do to survive in a situation where only salt water is available?

In a survival situation where only salt water is available, you can create a makeshift desalination plant using a plastic bottle, plastic wrap, and heat energy from the sun through solar distillation.

How does solar distillation help in purifying salt water?

Solar distillation works by evaporating the water in a container covered with plastic wrap. The evaporated water then condenses on the plastic wrap and drips into a separate container, leaving the salt and impurities behind.

Is the water produced through desalination suitable for human consumption?

Yes, the water produced through desalination is purified and free from salt and impurities, making it suitable for human consumption.

What are some ways to remove salt from water besides desalination?

Besides desalination, other ways to remove salt from water include filtration, distillation, and reverse osmosis.

More Resources:

  1. U.S. Geological Survey overview on desalination: USGS Desalination
  2. Wikipedia article on desalination: Wikipedia Desalination
  3. Encyclopaedia Britannica’s detailed explanation of desalination processes: Britannica Desalination
  4. Department of Energy’s insights into desalination: DOE Desalination Basics
  5. Safe Drinking Water Foundation’s information on reverse osmosis and other desalination methods: Safe Water Desalination