Beyond the BabySteps: Water: Evaporation Still

If you are new to food storage and following along with the BabySteps Summer Crash Course, please refer to the recently updated Step 2: Water page before you read this post and get overwhelmed. Our recommendation for beginners is to simply get a 2 week supply of water for your family (1 gallon per day per person).

How to Make an Evaporation Still

An evaporation still will extract water from the soil even if it appears to be quite dry. These instructions will help you create a still that will provide half the amount of water needed for one person per day. It’s definitely more convenient to simply store water, but for a longer term emergency you may find it necessary to find alternate means of accessing water.

Materials:

  • A six-by-six square piece of clear plastic
  • A drinking tube
  • A bucket or container to catch the water

Instructions:

  1. Dig a hole three feet deep and large enough at the bottom to hold the bucket or container.
  2. Place one end of the drinking tube at the bottom of the bucket and put the bucket in the hole.
  3. If possible, line the sides of the hole with shredded vegetation and slices of succulent plants.
  4. Place the plastic over the hole, securing the edges all around with soil.  Extend the drinking tube from the bucket under the plastic and up through the soil that holds the plastic in place.  Wrap a towel or clean cloth around the end of the tube to protect it from soil and contamination.
  5. Position a rock in the center of the plastic sheet two or three inches above and directly over the bucket.
  6. Water will accumulate in the bucket and can be sipped through the tube without dismantling the still.
evaporationstill

Make sure that you print out this post and put it in your Food Storage Made Easy Binder so that you can have it on hand in case of an emergency where you don’t have power.

View our other Beyond the BabySteps post about water:
Water Purification
Alternate Water Sources


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  • Peggy I.

    I recommend everyone look up Glenn Meder, who is a water specialist. The Red Cross recommends only 3 methods of water purification. Glen explains why distillation is the only completely safe way to purify water. He has developed the Survival Still. Look him up online or U Tube for more information.

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  • Clarissa W

    Hi guys. I just wanted to ask, have you ever actually made a still? From my experience, it’s a terrible way to get water. I assisted a team of survival students in digging one in our hot Arizona desert. Truth is, my instructor did it to prove a point. We sweat out more water digging it than the still could produce in eight hours. After eight hours of watching the plastic collect water, we opened it to find less than a quarter cup. You have to reseal it to start the condensation process again. In the desert, it’s a waste. Anywhere else and there are much better ways of obtaining water. It was a great concept, but the reality of digging a pit, and having a shovel and huge pieces of plastic with you makes it unfeasible.

    You are better off setting up transpiration bags to collect water. Basically, you put clear plastic bags over clumps of non poisonous vegetation and the water collects right in the bag. You put a little hole in the bottom and drain out the water and let the bag fill again. I have bags in all my cars, emergency kits, and camping gear. I’ll see if I can find a link on how to do them and post it here.

    As far as gathering water in an emergency goes, all I can say is try it yourself. And if someone has actually survived off of still water, I’d love to hear about it. As far as I know it’s a badly perpetuated myth that it is a good source of water in a survival situation.

    • Leon

      Amen to that. I have helped build four solar stills and the combined water gathered was not enough to repay the seat expended. Don’t waste your time making a solar still. It’s time for that survival myth to be put to rest.

      • Leon

        sweat, that is!

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  • tyler

    does it work in the winter?

  • Melissa

    I also heard once that you can do this with an inflatable pool. You turn it over, put a rock or something in the middle and a pan/bucket under that so that all the condensation on the inside flows down to the pot. Just an idea I thought I'd pass along. Of course you would want to use a clean pool, but they are really inexpensive.

  • Melissa

    I also heard once that you can do this with an inflatable pool. You turn it over, put a rock or something in the middle and a pan/bucket under that so that all the condensation on the inside flows down to the pot. Just an idea I thought I’d pass along. Of course you would want to use a clean pool, but they are really inexpensive.

  • Melissa

    I also heard once that you can do this with an inflatable pool. You turn it over, put a rock or something in the middle and a pan/bucket under that so that all the condensation on the inside flows down to the pot. Just an idea I thought I'd pass along. Of course you would want to use a clean pool, but they are really inexpensive.

  • Hi, guys! You know what would be GREAT? If you had some link or something that would enable a person to print ou the post with minimal other stuff on the page (a printer verision). It could be a .pdf, that would work since the software is free to read-only (for your readers).

    Just an idea to complicate your life :>)

    • Mary Howard

      I’ve been coping what I want and pasting it in a word. Not as good as you said but it works for me.

  • Hi, guys! You know what would be GREAT? If you had some link or something that would enable a person to print ou the post with minimal other stuff on the page (a printer verision). It could be a .pdf, that would work since the software is free to read-only (for your readers).

    Just an idea to complicate your life :>)