For centuries boaters have had to come into port or explore an unknown island in search of fresh water. As modern technology has advanced, the ability to remove salt and other toxins from seawater has become a reality, but it’s an expensive one, with watermaker prices being extremely high.

But why are watermakers so expensive?

The price of watermakers is all down to the materials and mechanics. There are so many complex parts and operations involved. For example, on large ships they might need a thousand gallons a day – that can mean an expensive watermaker price of around $10,000 US dollars!

 If you’re looking to buy a watermaker and are put off by the prices, scroll down a little further as I’ve got links into some of the best on the market. You might be able to get a cheaper price.

What watermaker should you choose?

Knowing what kind of watermaker you need for your boat is actually very complex and dependent on your boat type. For example, lf you have a large superyacht that can sail around the globe with 20 people onboard you might need 400 gallons a day.

If you have a large cruise ship, it could be as large as 80,000 daily gallons. But don’t sweat it, continue reading, and learn just what you need to get the right watermaker for your ship and crew.

What makes watermakers so expensive?

The process by which a watermaker works is called desalinization. That means that you remove salt and other toxins from your drinking water. This process requires a massive pump with a membrane that only allows water to pass through. A pump forces water again and again through the membrane until it meets the quality mandated by your elaborate array of electronics.

These pumps and membranes are advanced technology that very few companies produce. When something is rare, the price always goes up… being one of the main reasons for watermakers prices being so expensive.

Depending on the watermaker, there could be as many as seventeen components on a watermaker. Think of it this way, there are going to be about 1/3 of these parts that can be easily sourced. The rest will either have to be custom made or ordered from another country. It would be folly to not equate lost time to lost money.

Every day your boat is out of the water, it is going to cost you more money. On the flip side of that, numerous trips to top off the water in port will lead to a longer journey which, you guessed it, costs you more money.

Just like a water treatment facility in your town, dials and readouts will inform you how the watermaker is functioning. These electrical panels and knobs must be made by an electrician. Once they are completed, they must be seamlessly wired into the already existing components on your boat or yacht.

The parts that make up a watermaker aren’t standard, and will often only come from particular companies. Some of the fittings and hoses for the pump and wastewater channel can run as much as $150. That’s for a 1/4in piece of stainless steel that has to be custom made for the machines.

The main elements that make a watermaker make water are:

  • Pump
  • Membrane
  • Wastewater flushing

Pump

The pump is the standard water pump that you find in most boats and water processing plants. The pressure created by the pump is a significant factor in determining how much water can be processed. The larger the pump size, the more money you will spend.

You will have anywhere from one to five pumps running at any time on your watermaker. Not only does clean water need to be created, but wastewater needs to be removed as well.

Membrane

The membrane is what filters salt out of your water. The pump forces the water against the membrane, think of it like a screen that only allows water particles through, and salt is passed out with the wastewater. This process occurs several times before it becomes potable. The seaweed and other matter in water require several filtrations.

The membrane is what slows down the water making process. It takes an extended period to cycle the water enough times to make it potable.

Wastewater flushing

The majority of water, depending on your watermaker, will be passed back outside the hull. Even the best pumps and membranes would be worthless without a way to process waste.

Seaweed can be the majority of this, and the wastewater flushing tube should be checked each time you dock for obstructions.

What size watermaker do I need?

When it comes to choosing the right sized watermaker, you should focus on the number of people that will be using the boat. A guideline set forth by the Coast Guard states that 30 gallons of water per passenger per day is the standard.

Your typical sailboat will not need as a watermaker as big as the ones on gigantic cruise ships operated by Carnival and Viking. Your ordinary watermaker makes anywhere between ten and 350 gallons an hour.

For those big boy ships, they can make 1,750 gallons an hour or 42,000 gallons a day.

Each passenger should have enough water for:

  • Bathing
  • Cooking
  • Dishes
  • Hand washing

How much cost and time?

Another critical factor to consider when it comes to making water for the crew and passengers is time, but that isn’t the only factor to consider. Time is locked with cost in this situation.

A watermaker runs like an accessory to the engine so it’s part of fuel fees. A sailboat, which is as green and energy friendly as you can get, can cost $35,000/year in fuel fees. For the highest end superyacht, you can look to spend more than 2 million dollars a year in operating costs.

How long will you have to run your watermaker to create the amount needed? If you are docked, there will be places to hook up to power. While you are in the water, there could be other problems.

A watermaker will run off of the same power as the engine and other accessories on the ship. That means that you have a better opportunity to top off your water tanks when you are moving. While the engine is in operation, the constant running will create power in the battery.

The best watermakers for your boat

As a small sailboater or yacht owner, you wouldn’t need an elaborate system to clean hundreds of gallons of water. Those are for large ocean-faring ships like cargo haulers of cruise ships. There’s a section of boating between the weekend warrior and the hardened seamen and you should buy a watermaker that will fit your needs.

The best choices for a watermaker for average-sized boats are:

SpotZero

The SeaXchange model from SpotZero is one of the best on the planet. The SE series is the most compact and storable solution for your boat. It removes 99.7% of total dissolved solids (TDS), which is about as clean as seawater can get. Not only does this model remove all toxins, but it produces some of the best tasting drinking water available. SpotZero’s SeaXchange SE pricing begins at $12,999.

The SeaXchange is excellent for those of you that have an advanced number of people to cater to. It would work best on a larger ship with at least five crew members with a long berth list.

Katadyn – Spectra

Katadyn is a large conglomerate that makes just about every product that you can think of. Their Spectra line of maritime watermakers produces some of the most advanced technology in the market today. They have the world’s smallest hand-cranked watermaker as well as those large enough to clean enough water for a city.

The product that stands out the most from Spectra is the hand-cranked line of emergency models they offer. These are good for anywhere on the planet that you might need to make water. If there is a reason to abandon ship, you still have the option of creating clean drinking water. That’s handy.

Echotech

This is the watermaker for the minimalist. The person who isn’t caught up on all the gauges and switches that come with your higher-end watermakers. It comes in 12v / 24v, which means you can use it on your tiny dinghy or as a backup on your gigantic open ocean vessel.

Echotech makes the parts for their products themselves. That means when you reorder the part from the company, you will get the exact item that you need. As always, everything that Echotech makes is made from high quality austenitic stainless steel.