How to maintain your watermaker
How to maintain your watermaker

Proper maintenance of your watermaker is crucial for ensuring a reliable source of fresh water while living the sailing life, preventing costly repairs or replacements, and producing clean, safe water for you and your family.

How to Maintain Your Watermaker

Watermakers are an essential piece of equipment for those who choose to live the sailing life, providing a reliable source of fresh water while out at sea. As with any piece of equipment, proper maintenance is crucial to ensure the longevity and efficiency of your watermaker. In this article, we will discuss the importance of watermaker maintenance, the different types of watermakers, and provide a step-by-step guide on how to maintain your watermaker to ensure it remains in optimal working condition.

The Importance of Watermaker Maintenance

Watermakers are a significant investment for any boat owner, and proper maintenance is essential to protect that investment. Regular maintenance can help prevent costly repairs or replacements down the line, and ensure that your watermaker continues to provide fresh, clean water for you and your family.

Additionally, maintaining your watermaker can help improve its efficiency, reducing the amount of energy and time required to produce fresh water. This can be particularly important for those who rely on solar power or other limited energy sources while sailing.

Finally, regular maintenance can help ensure the quality of the water produced by your watermaker. Over time, filters and membranes can become clogged or damaged, leading to a decline in water quality. By keeping your watermaker in good working order, you can ensure that the water you and your family drink is clean and safe.

Types of Watermakers

There are two main types of watermakers: reverse osmosis (RO) systems and distillation systems. Each type has its own unique maintenance requirements, so it’s important to understand the differences between the two.

Reverse Osmosis (RO) Systems

Reverse osmosis systems are the most common type of watermaker found on boats. They work by forcing seawater through a semi-permeable membrane, which filters out salt, bacteria, and other impurities. The clean water is then collected and stored, while the remaining brine is discharged back into the ocean.

RO systems typically consist of several components, including a high-pressure pump, a membrane housing, and various filters and valves. These systems require regular maintenance to ensure they continue to produce clean, fresh water.

Distillation Systems

Distillation systems work by heating seawater to create steam, which is then condensed back into liquid form. The process of evaporation and condensation removes salt and other impurities, leaving behind clean, fresh water.

Distillation systems are less common on boats due to their higher energy requirements and slower production rates compared to RO systems. However, they can still be a viable option for those who prefer a more traditional method of water production.

Step-by-Step Guide to Maintaining Your Watermaker

Now that we’ve covered the importance of watermaker maintenance and the different types of systems available, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of maintaining your watermaker.

1. Consult Your Owner’s Manual

Before you begin any maintenance on your watermaker, it’s important to consult your owner’s manual. This will provide you with specific information about your particular system, including recommended maintenance schedules, replacement parts, and any special instructions or precautions you should be aware of.

2. Perform Regular Inspections

Regularly inspecting your watermaker can help you identify potential issues before they become major problems. Look for any signs of wear or damage, such as leaks, cracks, or corrosion. Additionally, check for any loose or damaged connections, and ensure that all valves and switches are functioning properly.

3. Replace Filters and Membranes as Needed

One of the most important aspects of watermaker maintenance is replacing filters and membranes as needed. Over time, these components can become clogged or damaged, reducing the efficiency of your system and the quality of the water it produces.

For RO systems, you’ll typically need to replace the pre-filters (sediment and carbon filters) every 3-6 months, depending on usage and water conditions. The RO membrane itself should be replaced every 2-3 years, or as recommended by the manufacturer.

For distillation systems, you’ll need to clean or replace the evaporator and condenser components as needed, depending on the specific system and manufacturer recommendations.

4. Clean and Flush the System Regularly

Regularly cleaning and flushing your watermaker can help prevent the buildup of scale, bacteria, and other contaminants that can reduce the efficiency of your system and the quality of the water it produces.

For RO systems, this typically involves running a freshwater flush through the system after each use, as well as periodically running a cleaning solution through the system to remove any buildup on the membrane and other components.

For distillation systems, you’ll need to clean the evaporator and condenser components regularly, as well as flush the system with fresh water to remove any accumulated salts or other impurities.

5. Lubricate and Service Moving Parts

Like any piece of machinery, your watermaker contains moving parts that require regular lubrication and servicing to ensure they continue to function properly. This may include the high-pressure pump, valves, and any other components that require regular maintenance.

Consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions on how to lubricate and service these parts, as well as any recommended maintenance schedules.

6. Monitor System Performance

Finally, it’s important to regularly monitor the performance of your watermaker to ensure it’s operating at peak efficiency. This may involve checking the output of fresh water, monitoring the pressure and flow rates, and testing the quality of the water produced.

By keeping a close eye on your system’s performance, you can identify any potential issues early on and address them before they become major problems.


Maintaining your watermaker is an essential part of living the sailing life, ensuring that you and your family have access to clean, fresh water while out at sea. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can help protect your investment, improve the efficiency of your system, and ensure the quality of the water you drink.

Remember to consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions and recommendations for your particular system, and don’t hesitate to reach out to the manufacturer or a professional technician if you have any questions or concerns about maintaining your watermaker.