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This Personal Solar Desalinator Delivers Fresh Water To People Who Need It

It’s simple technology that can produce up to a gallon of water a day, which could be useful in disaster recovery.

This Personal Solar Desalinator Delivers Fresh Water To People Who Need It
[Top Photo: GraphiTect via Shutterstock]

Put Mike Wofsey’s Water Wasp out in the sun, fill it with filthy seawater, and wait. A day later, you can enjoy fresh, clean, and salt-free water.

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Desalination is expensive, but only if you want to produce clean water fast and on a large scale. The Water Wasp uses a well-known method–the solar still–to evaporate clean water away from salt and dissolved pollutants. It’s small-scale and slow, but it’s also meant for personal use.

Wikipedia shows you how to put together a solar still yourself, but Wofsey says that his version is better. And he should know–he’s written a paper on the subject. The Water Wasp works in exactly the same way as the homemade survival versions, only it’s designed to be more efficient.

An evaporation still works by sitting some water in the sun, under a large, tented sheet of plastic. The sun evaporates the water, leaving all the dirt behind. The water vapor collects on the underside of the sheet, and runs down the slanted sheet into a collection vessel.

The Water Wasp is a $75 self-contained unit that collects these parts together. It’s made from BPA-free plastic that’s UV resistant, so it should last for a few years. It also uses a reflective insulating sheet underneath (like those foil blankets used by some old-school, skin-crisping sunbathers) to get things nice and hot (Wofsey says you shouldn’t leave it “running” while empty, or it’ll overheat). And instead of relying on groundwater to seep into a dug pit, you just add water by the bucketful through a zippered opening, then weigh down a cup in the center to collect the freshly distilled water.

“Solar stills actually make bottle-quality water,” Wofsey told me. “Not water that tastes ‘good enough considering the source,’ but rather water that is as pure as high-quality bottled water in the supermarket. For disaster recovery and developing nations, this is huge, because so many lives are lost to contaminated water–about 2 million every year, just due to diarrhea and cholera.”

Wofsey says that the usual alternative, water filters, are often used incorrectly. Also, they are designed to make safe water from freshwater sources, not seawater. They can’t remove salt or many dissolved contaminants.

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The Water Wasp is so simple that a kid can use it. It was even designed to be operated by children “because they tend to spend their time near the home, and they’re often the ones most sensitive to contaminated water,” says Wofsey.

Water Wasp

To test this ease of use, the team gave Water Wasp units to kids from four to 10 years old.

Could you make one yourself? Totally. In fact, that’s the idea. Wofsey’s original version was “popular with preppers and yacht owners in the U.S., Australia, and Europe,” he says, but this is aimed at developing nations, although preppers are still welcome. The Kickstarter campaign is meant to raise money to get the Water Wasp off the ground elsewhere in the world.

It will also be good for use in disaster situations:

We can now meet our original 100/200/1 goal, which was that one palette/skid of Water Wasp units could be used to provide water for 100 adults or 200 children indefinitely. At least 10 of these skids would fit into a conventional recovery helicopter.

Compared to delivering water itself, this is off the scale. A conventional recovery helicopter could normally only deliver enough water for 30 to 50 people for 30 days, and that would be stretching it.

With one of these on your roof or in your yard, you’ll easily produce enough clean water for a person or two. It won’t rescue California from drought, but it could rescue a single family at a time from contaminated or salty water.

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About the author

Previously found writing at Wired.com, Cult of Mac and Straight No filter.

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