How To Turn Salt Water Into Drinking Water

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Water distillation systemOne of the biggest issues for many people if SHTF is going to be finding and maintaining a consistent, safe water supply. Though our planet is covered in water, only one half of 1 percent is drinkable! For example, people who live in coastal regions are surrounded by water but it does them no good because one of the quickest ways to die of dehydration is to drink salt water.

There are ways to make that water potable, though, and science is finding even more ways. In order to turn salt water into drinking water, you need to desalinate it first. That just means that you need to remove the salt. There are many methods for doing this but the most efficient and realistic way to do it at home in a survival situation is by using the distillation by evaporation method.

Distillation by Evaporation

{adinserter usf}One of the easiest ways to convert salt water to drinking water is by using heat. You simply heat the water until it turns to steam, then capture the steam.

The water will evaporate but the salt and other impurities won’t. The problem here is that it requires a ridiculous amount of energy in the form of heat to get the job done. Still, it’s effective and if you combine the process with others, such as cooking or heating, you won’t be wasting nearly so much fuel.

Evaporation Distillation Method 1

This is a simple method but won’t net much fresh water at a time. If you’re on the run or just need enough for a couple of people, it will work, though. You’ll need a metal cup heavy enough not to float or heat-resistant glass, a pot with a domed lid and heat.

  1. Place the cup in the pot.
  2. Add salt water to the pot, making sure that it doesn’t get in the cup. Don’t fill it so high that you run the risk of the water boiling into the cup.
  3. Turn the lid upside down and place it on the pot. Make sure that your cup is underneath the lowest point of the lid and that the lid seals well. Otherwise, you’ll lose most of your steam before it drips into the cup as fresh water.
  4. Turn the heat up under the pot so that the water boils gently. You don’t want it to boil so hard that it splashes salt water into the glass or upsets the glass.
  5. As the water boils, it will turn to steam, which will rise to the lid and run down the lid into the cup, leaving salt and other impurities in the bottom of the pan.

As a side note, you can do this with a pressure cooker too, and it will require less heat. Just be sure that you don’t boil it dry and crack the cup or the pot.

Hint: You can perform this method for turning salt water into drinking water using solar heat, too. It will take several hours so be sure that you have plenty of time and sunlight. Just put the pan out in the morning so that it has all day to evaporate. You could even substitute plastic wrap for the lid and just put a small rock or something in the center over the glass to form a drip point. If you use a round, see-through glass bottle or jug, the process will be much quicker because the glass will act as a prism, heating the water faster.

Evaporation Distillation Method 2

This method for turning salt water into drinking water allows you to distill a bit more water though you’ll still be using quite a bit of energy. It operates on basically the same theory as an alcohol still. You’ll also need a heat-resistant glass or metal bottle, a cork or rubber seal for the bottle, a few of feet of tubing and a catch-basin.

  1. Make a hole in the piece of rubber or cork just big enough for the tubing to fit in.
  2. Fill the bottle with water, leaving some space at the top.
  3. Place the tube through the cork or seal so that it is even with the bottom of the cork, then put the cork in the top of the bottle.
  4. Run the tubing to another container that is lower than the bottle so that the water can run out of it and not back into the bottle.
  5. Put the bottle over your heat source, being careful not to get the tubing hot.
  6. Bring the water to a boil and watch as the steam comes out of the water, through the tubing and converts back to water as it drips out of the end of the tube into your container.

Just a hint: If you have a teapot, you could attach the tubing to the spout. Same theory!

Video first seen on Black Scout Survival

Evaporation Distillation Method 3

This method is sort of a morphing of the two processes we’ve already discussed and may come in handy if you’re on the run and don’t have access to anything other than your camp pan. We always include aluminum foil in the list of things to keep in your bug-out bag and this is yet another use for it. You’ll need tubing too, so toss a few feet of it into your bag as well.

  1. Fill your camp pot about half way with salt water.
  2. Form a cone with your aluminum foil so that the tubing is wrapped around the top of the cone and the bottom is used to seal the pot.
  3. Place the pot over heat and run the tubing to a catch basin or bottle.
  4. As the water comes to a simmer, it will start to evaporate and the steam will come up through the tube, dripping fresh water out the other end.

If you have the cash, you can invest in a solar-powered desalination unit that turns salt water into drinking water so you’ll be ready when SHTF. For that matter, with a little bit of ingenuity, you can build your own. It’s just basically a larger version of the bowl-and-plastic desalination method that we just described.

You can also use reverse osmosis to desalinate water but it’s not exactly something that you can build. You can buy personal RO devices for your home and even for water bottles but building your own in a SHTF situation isn’t realistic for most people. It requires special membranes and pressurization.

There is a technology being researched right now called electrodialysis. It’s not really new but progress has been slow on it. It involves using an electrical charge to remove the salt ions from the water and though it’s a great idea, they’ve only been able to reach about 25% desalinization. 99% is required for water to be considered potable. We’ll keep you posted on it though.

Along with desalinating water, all of the methods that we’ve described today also distill the water, effectively removing bacteria, viruses and other impurities from the water. If you’re using any of the solar methods, be sure to filter the water before you try to desalinate it because the process works best when the water is clear. Murky water will still work but it will take much longer.

If you have any other great ideas about how to turn salt water into drinking water, we’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!

new SMD01

This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

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Theresa Crouse

About Theresa Crouse

Theresa Crouse is a full-time writer currently living in central Florida. She was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia, where she learned to farm, hunt, fish, and live off the land from an early age. She prefers to live off the grid as much as possible and does her best to follow the “leave nothing behind but footprints” philosophy. For fun, she enjoys shooting, kayaking, tinkering on her car and motorcycle, and just about anything else that involves water, going fast, or the outdoors. You can send Theresa a message at editor [at] survivopedia.com.
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Comments

  1. Robert Farmer says:

    This method is als good for pollutes, non salt ater also (and it is better than just boiling). It removes bacteria, virus, parasites and particulates.

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  2. Here's a simpler variation on your method #3 (if you're caught without tubing):
    1. fill a pot or pan with salt water, and heat on a camp stove, rocket stove, small campfire, etc.
    2. fashion a loose-fitting tent or tee-pee out of aluminum foil, large enough for its open end to lap over the sides of the pot by several inches on every side.
    3. fashion a collection trough from aluminum foil to lay on ground underneath drip edge of tent.
    4. steam will rise, condense on tent, and drip into trough.
    This general concept could be adapted to use a large, inverted steel salad bowl so long as some spacers are used to create a gap between pan and bowl.

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  3. Be aware that distilled water is hypotonic, and drinking distilled water over long periods will leach minerals out of your body and cause diseases related to mineral deficiency.

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    • A couple of months after switching to drinking only distilled water, I was r. arthritis free! I stayed that way 9 years, till about 5 months after my distiller broke. Hoping to land a job soon. Thanks for another FANTASTIC article !

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      • Thank you Rose - I'm glad you enjoyed it. Also glad to hear about the arthritis. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you but until then, I hope you do well.

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      • Tom james says:

        A fascinating success! My wife has RA, and, although I think distilled water will leach minerals over the long run, I will suggest she try this 'cure'. Thanks for the feedback!

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  4. Here's another improvised method that uses two empty plastic water or soda bottles. Fill one bottle about 1/3 full with salty or dirty water, and then connect the two bottles at their openings using duct tape. Place the bottle filled with salty water on its side, in direct sunlight, but shade the second bottle. Over time, the water will vaporize from the first bottle and condense in the second. Again, make sure that the second bottle is angled so that water collects, and doesn’t flow back into the first. Make as many pairs of bottles as needed to meet your needs.

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    • SRIKRISHNA CHILUKURI says:

      hi friend,
      I got one concerning point of drought in few places in India, where water resource
      is important lacking point, the entire land har become dry, people dont get drinking water, no water for agriculture and for other domestic uses.
      Especially ground water levels very less, No rain fall No river waters aswell.
      kindly eloberate some solution to our people with humanitarian feel and tell us
      making of water from salt and from air.
      thanking you.
      krishna.

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      • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_water_generator
        Try this link with ideas of generating water out of air.

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      • you should look into 'seawater greenhouses' or even better 'sundrop farms' that theyve been developing in australia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seawater_greenhouse

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  5. I've read about another process recently where they use graphene to desalinate salt water. Not sure if the spelling of graphene is correct.

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    • I did a quick search on graphene and you're right, Otis. They're in the early stages of the process and are having a tough time scaling it up in a way that would be efficient enough to make it viable but the research is definitely there. It's out of MIT originally. Good find!

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  6. There is a older book called "the solar boat book" has some more alternatives for converting salt water to drinking water.

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  7. Dig a small hole. Place a cup at the bottom of the hole. Place saran wrap or other transparent , non permeable material over the hole with the edge weighted in place by the dirt you excavated so there is slack. Place a small stone on the cling wrap so that an inverted cone is centered above the cup.

    The sun will evaporate moisture from the dirt in the hole which will drip down the cone and into the cup.
    (I haven't tried this so don't know how much time it will take.)

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    • That's a good one, Ray. I saw a similar one using a tarp tied between 4 trees with the rock in the middle and a cup under the cone to catch dew as it evaporates. Thanks for the share!

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    • Tom james says:

      I have tried this method at our beach house, and technically, it works, although the output of distilled water is very low.
      I used a clear sheet of heavy plastic (a wrapper from a bed mattress), and used it to cover a hole that was about 5' in diameter, and about 2' deep. I first poured a 5-gallon bucket of seawater into the hole, and then covered the hole with the plastic (rock in the middle of the plastic, catch bowl underneath), was careful to seal all the edges of the plastic under sand berms. Day was sunny, ambient temp was about 90 deg F, winds at 5 mph. I set it up at 10:00 am, and retrieved the water basin at about 5:00 pm. Total water collected: about 4 oz.
      I would not want to depend on this method in a desperate situation.

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    • you method is sound but produces a minimal amount of water there are a number of variations to this method most of which are taught to many BSA members. I have used this method in an area with high humidity and produced about a pint of water in 10-12 hours with approx. 3 ft. diameter hole and plastic. You can seed this method by adding vegetation in hole or by pouring contaminated water (i.e. salt water, urine, or contaminated with bacteria) while making sure none gets in your catch container. You can make more than one in an area as long as you have materials and adequate sunlight for units.

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  8. What system does the Navy use on board ship

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    • Tom james says:

      I don't know about the Navy, but ocean-going yachts use electrically operated RO filters (most cost $2,000 and up), and most lifeboats, both in the Navy and civilian use, are now stocked with manual, pump-operated RO filters...I bought a used one on Ebay for about $300. They are very slow in output, and require constant manipulation for hours on end, but I guess if you're stuck in a lifeboat, time is not your biggest challenge.

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  9. Tom James, there's no scientific basis for belief that distilled water leaches minerals. Mineral solutes in urine after consumption of water comes from an excess of minerals deposited over the years in regions of the body where it does not belong (which leads to arthritis, arterial plaques, hardening of the arteries, gout, digestive disorders, thyroid/parathyroid imbalances, weakened immunity, osteoporosis, kidney stones/disease, edema, vision problems, cognitive decline, etc...etc.). Distilled water removes these deposits quite effectively, and improvement continues the longer one consumes the water.

    Distilled water is THE best and ONLY form of water one should drink (and cook with). Our only source of minerals should be foods, particularly plant foods, which is why juicing veggies can be a life saver at times of acute illness.

    Any water that is not pure/distilled is unsuitable (eg, well water, spring water, glacier water, city/tap water, RO water, alkaline water, etc.), and this includes water runoff from melted snow because it collects minerals from the rocks. And rain water/ice/fresh snow is unsuitable too. It's not only acidic, but also contains pollutants like radioactive elements (eg, strontium), smog, bacteria, pesticides, and so on. As far as untreated natural water, the best would probably be morning dew far from large cities.

    Adding juices (eg, lemon/lime), fruits, or plant products (tea, coffee, molasses, palm/coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey, etc.) in distilled water is fine though. Just make sure the latter is not contaminated with dirt/sediment, pesticides, etc.

    Of course when distilling, it's best to start with water from natural sources (rather than city/tap water) in order to avoid the issue with chlorine compounds (and other synthetic additives) in the water which have a lower temperature of evaporation than water. Using a pre- & post-carbon/charcoal filter with your distiller will remove the chlorine. Fluoride will already be effectively removed by distillation (note that RO systems do not remove all the fluoride).

    I've tried all waters, but have never felt any real benefits until I began drinking distilled water consistently. (I also once believed the myth that distilled water leached minerals from the body because even alternative/naturopathic doctors were telling us it was bad.) And it's weird, but I also feel "protected" when I drink it. Some further advice: go easy on the salt/sea salt in your food. These are rock minerals in inorganic form that's unusuable to our cells. Salt can provide essential water balance functions in times of need though...such as during heavy sweating/water depravation...but veggies high in organic sodium & electrolytes can provide the same benefits without leaving mineral deposits.

    Used home distillation units are available on ebay, or buy a new one from an online store. Small ones produce anywhere from 1 gallon every few hours, while larger ones can produce 8 - 12 gallons daily.

    Here are some further info/links on the benefits of distilled water for your interest. (See also youtube videos on the benefits of distilled water.)

    http://whale.to/a/distilled_water.html

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    • Tom james says:

      I suppose scientists will debate you regarding hypertonic water, including the author of this article, cited by the World Health Organization regarding the dangers of drinking demineralized water.
      I have no issues with drinking distilled or RO water in an emergency scenario, but I don't think it's advisable for the 'hypertonic' reason.
      http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/nutdemineralized.pdf

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      • Being hyper-, hypo-, or isotonic doesn't give us any real indication of what it will do inside the body, and particularly at the cellular level. And so far, there's no credible data to substantiate this myth of mineral leaching. But the bottom line remains that inorganic minerals are unusable...which is why mineral supplement companies are now hotly selling minerals attached to amino acid chelates as mineral carriers (aka, chelated minerals). But even these (isolated & devoid of their natural-existing coenzymes, vitamins, balanced minerals, proteins, sterols, antioxidants, fats, fibers/pectins/carbs, etc.) cannot hold a candle to plant sources.

        In this case, the debate is moot because the proof is in the pudding. People (like me) who have switched to or have used distilled water long-term would never go back to any other water.

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      • As a side note, it's not a good idea to quote or use the WHO as reference. This is the same organization that's been pushing a global-wide vaccination campaign, spreads fear of fake/nonexistent "viral" diseases, promotes GMO's, promotes the expansion & use of grain foods (rather than local/traditional/seasonal food crops), and (along with the FAO) established the Codex Alimentarius Commission...and serves as a PR tool to legitimize continental trade unions in order to destroy small local farms/businesses and consolidate global resources, labor, and control.

        The WHO lies in the same boat as the FDA, NIH, CDC, AMA, ADA, EPA, etc...etc. These authoritative agencies/institutions pose as legitimate institutions of unbiased, well-meaning science...but in reality are the complete opposite. In truth, the elite (banking globalists) who run/own these institutions are not interested in your/our well-being. (You think they put fluoride in our water because they care about our dental health?) They are designed to control every facet of life you take for granted --- what you eat, drink, breathe, learn, and believe, and how you think & behave --- and in a manner that keeps people dumbed down, busy, tired, drugged, polluted, sick, in pain, suffering, stressed, and slowly dying.

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        • Jason is spot on. It needs a lot of reseach and hard work to reach that conclusion.

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        • Love your focus! You said it TEN times better then I did, I total agree!

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        • Tom james says:

          So, Jason, please explain, without another long diatribe devoid of actual, direct argument, how, by drinking the world's best natural solvent, distilled water, that every drop you drink will not leach minerals from your body? When that water enters your system, through simple dilution, aided by partial pressures and osmosis, there is simply no physical way for leaching of every soluable mineral in your body to NOT occur.

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          • @Tom James: while we wait for an answer, Tom would you be so kind to clarify? Though osmosis, we would expect not only minerals but also other waste products to leach in similar fashion? right? I suppose toxic chemicals from using paint or gas that touched your skin?

            You describe a natural and important process, that includes minerals, correct?

            "Leaching" seems so negative, yet the body is designed so, I think?

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          • @Tom: are you also assuming food doesn't provide any nutrients/minerals? If a person only had water to survive, one could make a case water with minerals would be better than plain water. But the person has a varied diet with vitamins/supplements, plenty of meats and vegetables, etc. would drinking plain water still be detrimental?

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  10. This seems like it would work for urine as well. Is this true?

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    • Yes Patrick, all of these methods will work for urine as well as water. The idea that Ray posted about digging a hole will work with urine, too. Just pee in the hole, being careful not to pee in the cup.

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      • Digging a hole in the ground, put a cup in the bottom. cover it with clear or black plastic film, seal it to the ground, place a small weight in the center over the cup to form a drip point. Depending on how damp the ground is, How sunny it is, how well it is sealed, and how well it is located will get you from 1/2 to 1 pint of water a day. If you are in a more-or-less permanent place one of the above apparatuses
        will be more efficient especially if use aluminum foil, Mylar film or other reflective items to concentrate the sun's rays (a-la solar oven) to heat the boiler. An old satellite dish with reflective material and carefully aimed will get plenty hot at the focal point. It will have to be adjusted regularly to track the arc of the sun. The main problem with reflective material is its visibility to others. Distillation is not for sea water only it will purify river, stream, pond, or any dirty water. Experiment now BEFORE SHTF.

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  11. Jonny S says:

    I typically use a tarp and twine attached to 3-4 trees with an object of weight in the center to create a cone. I backpack regularly through the Rockies and have a 30 day trip planned for the Northwest living entirely off the grid. On most occasions at a medium altitude you can obtain a minimum of 3 oz of water per 3'x3' canopy. I have found this the easiest logistical way to keep my packs light with the needed gear and still obtain the water to sustain daily. I have four of them made out of the covers of old outdoor lawn furniture set that was being scrapped. These finds are everywhere if you can think outside the box and fins a use for them. Note: throw some dandelion in your stored water to keep the cramps away in you muscles.

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  12. Terrific! Its my first time to know that salt water can be able to turn into drinking water. I am sharing the information, i am really amazed!

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  13. Place a cup of seawater in a plastic bag, tie up the bag with air inside, like a balloon. And place under hot sun, soon water droplet will form on the plastic wall, and drip down to the bottom.

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  14. In emergency situation, say, on a island with no water. Under hot noon sun, make a sizeable hole at the middle of a sizeable plastic sheet, say, a square foot, and place over the wet sand, then cover the sheet with another sheet ...soon water will accumulated between the two sheets.

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  15. On a raft or boat, without water, wet your t-shirt with seawater, squeeze till no dripping, place the shirt inside a plastic bag, let under hot sun, soon water droplet will form, and drip to bottom. If no plastic bag around, a raincoat over the wet shirt will do..( use your imagination!). If only t-shirts available!!! THEN, a very dry t shirt, wrap losely the wet, under hot sun, will at least, squeeze a few drop of life saving fresh water!!!

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  16. Questions: What would be the best and easiest method of turning pool water into drinking water? Also, I have many plastic containers filled with water in my laundry room. They have been there for many months. Are they drinkable or do I need to add bleach before drinking and if so, how much?
    Thank you.

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  17. My residential area is suffering from many difficulties regarding drinking water and sea is nearer from our area , so which is vest way to convert salt water to drinking water in HUGE amount..??

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  18. All these arguments below are putting people in bad moods. Instead of buying these expensive equipment or making something you don't need, just drive, have a friend drive ya, take the bus, ride a bike to your neatest store and buy yourself purefied water. The most I've seen pureified go for a 24--30 pack roughly around $17--$18. Why the arguments? When you can just go to the store and get yourself pureified water.

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    • Because carrying 1 gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds a 30 day supply would be around 250 pounds to carry to the location vs creating water from distillation.

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Trackbacks

  1. […] already has minerals in it, right? Well, yes but not after it’s been distilled or purified using reverse osmosis. Both of those processes remove most of the impurities – up to 99.5% of them – from the water. […]

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  2. […] already has minerals in it, right? Well, yes but not after it’s been distilled or purified using reverse osmosis. Both of those processes remove most of the impurities – up to 99.5% of them – from the water. […]

    (2)
    (1)
  3. […] can be removed by distillation or reverse osmosis, though there are some chemicals that evaporate at a lower temperature than water so they pass […]

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  4. […] can be removed by distillation or reverse osmosis, though there are some chemicals that evaporate at a lower temperature than water so they pass […]

    (1)
    (0)
  5. […] can be removed by distillation or reverse osmosis, though there are some chemicals that evaporate at a lower temperature than water so they pass […]

    (1)
    (0)
  6. […] already has minerals in it, right? Well, yes but not after it’s been distilled or purified using reverse osmosis. Both of those processes remove most of the impurities – up to 99.5% of them – from the water. […]

    (1)
    (0)
  7. […] Water can also be found in anti-freeze, although the rest of the anti-freeze is poisonous and urine, although once again, drinking urine is poisonous, as it has a high mineral content. The purpose of urine is to expel excess minerals from the body, so drinking urine would just put those minerals back into the body; not a good plan. But the water can be extracted from the urine. […]

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  8. […] Water can also be found in anti-freeze, although the rest of the anti-freeze is poisonous and urine, although once again, drinking urine is poisonous, as it has a high mineral content. The purpose of urine is to expel excess minerals from the body, so drinking urine would just put those minerals back into the body; not a good plan. But the water can be extracted from the urine. […]

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  9. […] phone, heavy metal cup, and a pot with a domed lid. If you’re wondering why, check out this guide on how to turn salt water into drinking […]

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  10. […] Source : www.survivopedia.com […]

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  11. […] Reverse osmosis systems paired with activated carbon […]

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  12. […] in an EMP (get rid of bacteria, chemicals, and all radioactive substances except Tritium) is to distill the water. It requires heating it up to a point where it turns to steam, and then collecting the water […]

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  13. […] in an EMP (get rid of bacteria, chemicals, and all radioactive substances except Tritium) is to distill the water. It requires heating it up to a point where it turns to steam, and then collecting the water […]

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  14. […] the world can achieve this goal, you can too. It may also be of some help to make sure that you can distill water to remove any contaminants left behind by the sock […]

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  15. […] and you drink salt water, you’ll die quickly from kidney failure. While we do have water desalination methods available today, they require enormous amounts of energy and may not produce enough potable water […]

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  16. […] and you drink salt water, you’ll die quickly from kidney failure. While we do have water desalination methods available today, they require enormous amounts of energy and may not produce enough potable water […]

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  17. […] and you drink salt water, you’ll die quickly from kidney failure. While we do have water desalination methods available today, they require enormous amounts of energy and may not produce enough potable water […]

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  18. […] Salt Water – If you are near an ocean coastline or other source of salt water, you can spray salt water onto […]

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