A Solar Water Still for the Deadly Drought in Northern Kenya

The Horn of Africa is currently in a deadly drought. Ironically Northern Kenya has the fourth largest lake in Africa. The only problem is that the lake is undrinkable due to salt and fluoride. We have designed a still made from low-cost local materials and traditional skills.

I have been working with a small group of engineers and designers to develop a solar still for resource-poor drought-stricken regions like Lake Turkana. What a tragedy that the fourth largest lake in Africa is undrinkable and in the middle of a desert.

We started with the tried and true method of solar distillation.


Being at the equator sunlight will not be a limitation. Building material availability and cost are issues.

Our design has several benefits:

95% zero cost materials

Additional materials are readily available(Lodwar, Kenya) and low-cost.

Uses traditional building techniques

Is scaleable

The unique design has added water capture in the evening and nighttime

Floating blackened wood for enhanced light capture

Thin layer enhanced evaporation

Preheating in Jerry cans

No salt crystallization

Easy to clean and sterilize

Easy to maintain

Easy to add lake water and collect fresh water

More than 3l per day per square meter. (enough for one person)

A still 1.5m by 3m will provide enough water for a small family

A still the size of a typical Maasai hut could produce 60l/day

How is it made:

First, a basin is made like a traditional hut (best with an elevated floor)

Next, this is lined with a tarp to hold the saltwater.

This is covered with a piece of greenhouse plastic.

The sun evaporates the saltwater

Freshwater drips off the plastic into a trough, into a Jerry can.

Once a day the concentrated brine is replaced.

We are building a 1 square meter prototype and are planning a detailed video, PDF tutorials, and a video short.

The trough, tarp liner, and plastic cover are not shown above.

We have also developed a small-scale scale easy-to-build demonstration version that supporters can build.


There are remaining challenges with land management and access to the lake. Coordination with local elders and possibly the Water, Peace, and Security partnership may be helpful. There may be cultural resistance. Engaging women (who build and own the huts in many pastoralist communities) may be helpful.

I would like your thoughts on the project. If you want to help out consider joining The Make Good Collective or our new forum.
Thank you for your time.


George Albercook

Dr. G in the news

1 Like

Interesting project @Albercook - shame the pictures haven’t loaded.

@Albercook FYI this problem is usually the result of posting before the pictures finish uploading. You should be able to edit your post and add the actual pictures, please try again.