Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

James Mihelcic, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jeff Cunningham, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Maya Trotz, Ph.D.


Appropriate Technology, Local Material, Metal Removal, Sustainable Development, Mexico


It is estimated that only one percent of global freshwater is available to humans, with nearly three billion people living in water scarce conditions. Populations living in impoverished settings are particularly vulnerable to water related illnesses, with approximately 2.2 million people dying each year from to waterborne illnesses. This research uses modeling and field studies to assess the quantity, quality, and economics of distillate produced for drinking water from a brackish water source using two single-sloped, single-basin distillation reactors. The reactors were constructed from adobe and concrete in an arid rural community in San Luis Potosí, Mexico and tested from August to October. The cost of one adobe reactor with an evaporative area of 0.65 m2 is 430 pesos, whereas the same size reactor made from concrete costs 630 pesos. Results show that desalination reactors made from adobe produce 848 mL/m2-day and reactors made from concrete produce 979 mL/m2-day of distillate, while similar reactors made from other materials are estimated to produce over 2,100 mL/m2-day under similar meteorological conditions. These volumes represent approximately 10 percent of drinking water needs of a local family with typical water use habits. The concentrations of total dissolved solids in the source water decreased from 1,102 mg/L to 40.3 mg/L over the study's duration for a removal of 96% which is comparable to current desalination systems (97%). Results suggest that over 90% of a household's drinking water demand could be satisfied (91%) if a network of thirteen distillation reactors were constructed and maintained for ten years when compared to purchasing water from private water vendors.