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Distillation was mentioned earlier while discussing condensation. It is a process in which water is boiled in a container to produce water vapors or steam. The steam rises to meet a cooled surface where the vapors are converted to water droplets.

The droplets are then collected in another container for water.

Distilling will kill microorganisms because the water is boiled. It also removes salt and a number of other impurities, so the process is appropriate for converting sea water, in addition to all other water, to drinking water. In fact, distillation can be used to purify urine .

  • 1. Place an empty glass inside a pan or tie a cup to the pan’s lid
  • 2. Pour water into the pan to a level below the glass rim
  • 3. Cover the pan but turn the cover upside down
  • 4. Boil the water over a fire or on a stove (if available) for 20 minutes
  • 5. Let the steam condense on the pan lid and drip into the glass
  • 6. Let the glass cool before touching

When you have the supplies, it is possible to set up a still that is reminiscent of the old-fashioned moonshiners. In that kind of setup, a covered water container is connected to a second empty container via a hose. The water container is heated over a fire until the water boils to generate steam. The steam runs through the hose to the collection container where it is turned to water after cooling. Impurities remain in the original water container and include viruses, bacteria, salts, chemicals, heavy metals and particulate pollutants.

If you are in a severe emergency situation in the desert or where the ground is warm and must distill urine, it is possible to use this same process. When there is no electricity and no way to build a fire, you can use the ground heat.

  • 1. Dig a shallow hole in the ground
  • 2. Urinate in the hole
  • 3. Place an empty glass inside the hole
  • 4. Cover the glass with a plastic bag
  • 5. Let the natural sand or soil heat evaporate the water

Similar to the rugged distillation systems just described is solar distillation. Instead of a fire, stove or ground, it is the sun that becomes the power source. In a survival situation, it is possible to use a mixing bowl or other container to hold a glass and the water. Covering the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, a small stone placed in the middle of the plastic will direct condensation into the glass. Place the bowl in the sun to heat the water.

A solar distillation method that uses two bottles and a hose is also effective for making a larger amount of drinking water.

  • Obtain two bottles or other containers of any size
  • Fill one bottle with water
  • Place the water filled bottle in the sun
  • Place the empty bottle in a spot that is out of the sun
  • Connect the water filled bottle to the empty bottle with tubing that runs from one opening to another
  • Let the sun heat and evaporate the water, which will run through the tubing and collect in the empty bottle

Solar distillation that is completely natural can also provide drinking water. Water that evaporates from the earth as the sun heats the ground, forms clouds and then returns to earth as rain is the same as distilled water.

The naturally distilled rain water becomes clean drinking water when it is collected in a clean container.