Energy & Sustainability
The Watercone

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Interesting solar water desalinator, but not in production yet it seems… –

The Watercone is a solar powered water desalinator that takes salt or brackish water and generates freshwater. It is simple to use, lightweight and mobile. The technology is simple in design and use and is discribed by simple pictograms. With max. 1,6 liters a day the Watercone is an ideal device to cover a childs daily need of freshwater. UNICEF: “every day 5000 children die as a result of diarrhea coused by drinking unsafe water”

Watercone, thanks Dave! – Link.

32 thoughts on “The Watercone

  1. I’m always a bit suspicious of these companys selling these kind of gadgets to third world countries – how much do they cost per cone?

    You could make a seriously better solar still with a large sheet of polythene and a hole.

  2. How about this: dig a hole in the ground, put water in the hole (or use groundwater), put an empty cup in the center, put a heavy piece of transparent plastic tarp over it, tack down all the edges, then put a rock in the center of the tarp? The rock on the tarp forms an inverted cone. Evaporated water collects on the plastic and runs toward the middle, where it drips off into the cup.

    It seems like something like that would be a good, cheaper solution…

  3. This is actually a pretty slick design in my opinion, and is elegant in it’s simplicity. Sure, you can make a bigger, cheaper one with a plastic sheet, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as convenient or foolproof. The lip around the bottom edge lets you put it on top of any moisture containing source, and just turn it over to get at the clean water. The plastic sheet over a hole method requires you to dismantle the rig to get at the water, and requires some skill in forming the cone and getting the hole lined up with the cup – all while trying to keep everything clean. Any 6-year old could work this one however.

  4. Mikiex, what if you can’t dig a hole? What if the ground is too rocky, I.E. hardpan an inch or two under the topsoil. Or too sandy.

    And what if your plastic sheet gets a hole in it?

    Or what if you’re too infirm to dig a hole?

    Something like the watercone is a “fire and forget” weapon against dirty water. You only need to show one person once how it works, and then that person can show everyone else how it works and how simple it is to use. And from there, the number of people who can learn how to use it grows exponetially.

    No digging, no screwing around with plastic sheets, nothing but “Fill this part with water, put this on top, wait.Then drink.”

    Digging holes, plastic sheets, that’s just a primative kludge. The watercone is an elegant machine, designed to do one thing, very well, for a long time.

    Oh,and as for the cost of these things, do you really think that the designer and manufacturer don’t fully realize that there will be locally produced knockoffs produced almost instantly? Anyone with a three liter soda bottle a pocket knife, a heat source and a little inginuity can likely make the “cone” themselves.

    Do you really think the designer and manufacturer actually care about knockoffs.

    More knockoffs, more kids drinking clean, safe water.

    Everybody wins!

  5. did I say I cared about the designer caring about knock offs..?

    What if you can’t carry a bulky cone around.

    what if you require more water than the cone can produce
    it won’t produce enough for an adult.

    What if you get a crack in the cone

    You might say digging holes is a “primative kludge”
    but actually there are other reasons it improves the design. This method has saved many lives including a friend of mine

  6. I think you’re looking at two different problems here. The cone is a very cheap and elegant solution to the lack of clean water in under-developed areas of the world. The hole and tarp method is a crafty solution when you get stuck somewhere without water.

    The difference is, the first problem is foreseable, the second is unexpected. Both a great ideas, but they’re solving different problems.

  7. With a max output of 1.6 l/day, an adult would need like 3 or 4 of these. A family of 2 adults and 2 kids would need 10 or so, just for their drinking water. They would need “tending” throughout the day to collect the water. You’d need more capacity, to save some water for those cloudy days, too.

    It’s a good concept, but I don’t think very practical. A large solar still, manufactured to the same standard as the watercone – something the size of a kids’ wading pool, with a large (several liter) catch basin in the middle – would better serve the true needs of the developing world.

  8. Also ideally these stills should be manufactured locally, eg if used in africa within the continent.

    I’m not knocking the design, its very similar to others.
    I’d like to know how much they cost to the people who would use them and if that money could be better spent

  9. @ mikiex-

    As amp2003 said, the methods are suited to the timing!
    We used the plastic-in-the-ground method during summer phase of Mountain training in Maine- it worked…but setting the plastic up over the hole, NOT knocking over the collection container, getting the rock in the right place to drain into the vessel…we needed at least a two man team. Then the animals and debris that a large funnel in the woods collects… It indeed is a good survival tool, but not practical from a daily living standpoint.

    “I’d like to know how much they cost to the people who would use them and if that money could be better spent”

    Well, I’m sure the people that get them are not the people that pay for them. US aid type of thing to the third world, ya know. Hard to charge people that cant afford water..

  10. Much like the “pot in a pot” evaporative cooler, I expect that the diverse humanitarian agencies will just give them away.

    It’s a good concept, but I don’t think very practical. A large solar still, manufactured to the same standard as the watercone – something the size of a kids’ wading pool, with a large (several liter) catch basin in the middle – would better serve the true needs of the developing world.

    Small steps. Get this in the field, prove that it works on a small scale and then scale it up to larger sizes.

  11. jswilson64-
    It wouldn’t be that hard to increase the volume of the lip that catches water, that way it could go several days without “tending”.

  12. What if you can’t dig a hole because your area is under water?

    Then, you could possibly just float this on the water flooding your village (or Gulf Coast city) to get your drinking water.

    The trend in disasters appears to be either bone-dry droughts with hardly any water available at all (where you’d need a solar still) or way, WAY too much water but all of it contaminated (where you’d need a solar still).

    There are 1000 ways to improve anything, but at least someone quit theorizing and actually built something in an effort to actually help people, even if it isn’t perfect. Untold millions of people need clean water right this very moment, and aren’t getting it. If the Watercone inspires someone to build a bigger, better, and more efficient solar still, then this effort will have been infinitely more successful than all the brilliant ideas that never made it past being a sketch on a napkin.

    Makers and their makes are uniquely suited for addressing the challenges of helping people who desperately need it in areas lacking the technologies we take for granted, and it’s very fulfilling and worthwhile to allot at least some of our time and resources to bring a bit of relief to people living in unimaginable conditions. It’s also a way to express appreciation for our astounding good fortune; a pipe in my home that potable water comes out of anytime I want is not a typical characteristic of the overall human experience.

  13. for what they are aiming for, watercone is a great idea,
    but its been 3 years since they tested it and they still haven’t started production? What goobers.

  14. I wonder if I could make one from clear 2 liter bottles or large water cooler bottle with the bottom cut out. Would need to be able to curl up the bottom edges or use some donut shaped bowl to catch the water in.

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