Sea Water Distillers for Kiribati?
Subject: Sea water distillers for Kiribati?
Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2000
> I represent a 501 (C) (3) humanitarian organization that have been providing
> free medical and dental services to the people of Kiribati (formally known
> as the Gilbert Islands, where the international date line crosses the
> equator in the South Pacific). Please see our web site:
> <http://www.searchforone.org/> for additional information on Search for
> The major problems existing in this country is 1) the lack of rain water
> (which is their only source of drinkable water) and 2) their polluted water
> supply, 3) their buried dead.
> Let me explain these problems: these islands are nothing more than coral
> atolls that are no more than 4-feet above sea level. Most are ~ 30 miles
> long and less than * mile wide arraigned in a horseshoe configuration. Their
> only source of fresh water is from rain, which filters down over the dead
> bodies and into their water supply and their flush toilets also flush into
> their water supply (fresh water is lighter than sea water and therefore
> floats on top of the sea water underneath their islands). Hepatitis exists
> in more than 60% of the people.
> We have just learned that a high school of more than 400 students (and which
> we share their property on the opposite side of the island) has had two
> student and one adult death that can be traced directly to their polluted
> water supply. This country is considered to be the poorest of the poor
> island nations by WHO (World Health Organization).
> All the solar distillation panels that I see are for small amounts of water
> per day. I believe that we would need for this school a minimum of 3,000
> gals/day, enough for their consumption and for bathing. Being on the
> equator, the temperature is always above 85 degrees and they do have access
> to a great amount of salt/sea water. This particular island has gone for
> over a year without any rain (I just returned from this island this past
> Now to my question for you.
> Can you provide me with the ability to distill this much water, or more,
> every day of the year?
In a word, no. Sounds like a dire situation. Check <http://www.sunutility.com/contents.htm#water>
for solar water pasteurization; it would take less energy and hardware to
pasteurize the fresh water than distill the ocean water. Maybe they could bury
their dead at sea? Likewise, they'd be better off with composting toilets or
even conceivably dumping the raw sewage in the ocean than polluting all their
ground water. In Panama where their flush toilets drain direct to the ocean low
population density allows them to get away with it without much trouble.
I thought simple constructed wetlands might be a good refinement to this
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