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postheadericon How a solar still may save your life

How A Solar Still May Save Your Life

“Still? What’s that? Isn’t that what you use to make moonshine?” These are the types of questions you are likely to get if you tell someone that you just made a solar still in your backyard, but the fact is that these fascinating contraptions can actually be lifesavers (literally) if you ever find yourself in a tight situation with no water to drink.

A solar still works on the principle that leaves and other vegetation contain moisture, as does the ground in many cases. The only problem is how to get the moisture in a drinkable form; we’re not all koala bears, so just eating the leaves is out of the question. The answer, it turns out, is to harness the power of the sun to extract the moisture from the source by evaporating it and then using a plastic bag or plastic sheet to collect it. As you can probably guess, the one drawback to the solar still methods is that if you don’t have a plastic bag or sheet, you can’t use them. However, it is amazing how many strange substances can be made to function as a sheet of plastic when you’re desperate, so with a little bit of the spirit of MacGyver, you will probably be all right.

To construct a simple above ground still, take a plastic bag, preferably one that can seal and that is made of clear plastic, and fill it half to three-quarters full with vegetation: leaves, grass, stems and stalks, any type of green plant matter. Make sure that it is a sunny day, and find a hillside or other sloped surface to place the bag on. The idea is to make sure that when the water evaporates from the plants, it drains to one location in the bag so that you can collect it. To ensure this, place a small rock in one corner of the bag. The water will tend to pool around the rock.

You can also make a below ground still, although it is a little more involved. For this, you need a digging tool, a clear plastic sheet, and some sort of container. Dig a hole in the ground somewhere where you think the soil will have some moisture in it. Dig another hole at the bottom of this hole and place your container in it. Put some vegetation along the sides of the hole for extra moisture, and put the sheet on top. Weight it down, and then put a rock in the center of the tarp so that the tarp dips down and the part with the rock is the lowest point. As the sun strikes the tarp, the hole will heat up, and the moisture will evaporate and collect on the tarp. It will run down to the lowest point, where the rock is, and drip down into your container.

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