How to Make Sea Water Drinkable

Salt water can be made drinkable through a simple distillation process.
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Did you know more than 95 percent of the water on our planet is undrinkable because of its high saline content? In other words, it's so salty, drinking more than a glass or two can make you sick. Not only is it possible to desalinate water, for many people it is the only way they can get potable water. While most desalinization happens on an industrial scale, providing water to millions of people at a time, you can build a homemade desalinization system to remove the minerals that make salt water undrinkable. Distillation creates drinkable water by heating salt water until it evaporates, then capturing the condensation.

    Build a fire that's small enough that the water won't boil over when it's placed over the fire. The fire should be built so the large pot can sit level on the embers.

    Place the 1-gallon pot directly on the embers. Place the 1-quart pot in the center of the larger pot, with the medium-sized rock in the quart pot. The rock must be heavy enough to keep the smaller pot from floating once the saline water is added to the larger pot. Fill the large pot with sea water until the water is just below the brim of the inner, smaller pot.

    Take the plastic sheet and loosely, but completely, cover the top of the larger pot. Tie the string around the plastic and the pot to make a complete seal. Place the smaller rock in the center of the plastic sheet so it is directly over the center of the inner pot.

    Monitor the still so the water does not erupt into a rolling boil, which may upset the inner pot. As the salt water heats, notice how small drops of condensation gather on the inside of the plastic sheet. This is clean water that should run down the depressed plastic sheet and drip into the inner pot.

    When the water in the outer pot is completely evaporated, remove the still from the heat. The salt from the saline will remain at the bottom of the inner pot. The process can be repeated until you have enough water.

    Things You'll Need

    • Sea Water
    • Fuel for a fire of sufficient size to generate steam
    • 1-gallon pot (or larger), either steel or ceramic, capable of withstanding heat
    • 1-quart pot, (or larger) either steel or ceramic, capable of withstanding heat
    • Clean plastic sheet capable of withstanding heat
    • String
    • 1 medium rock.
    • 1 small rock


    • If you will be cooking food in another pot, the still can be placed on top of that pot to conserve fuel. Be sure to allow room for the steam from the cooking pot to escape.

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