Abstract A tube-type solar still is found to be suitable for use in desert irrigation. The effectiveness of a heat accumulator with regard to distillate productivity is experimentally and numerically verified. The heat accumulator consists of tube bundles immersed in wax in order to utilize the latent heat of wax. The dynamic response to stepwise variation of irradiative intensity verified the contribution of wax to an increase of productivity only when the phase change of wax occurred. The effective distillate productivity was found to be 294.3 g/m 2 during the cyclic stepwise change of irradiative intensity, from 200 to 600 W/m 2 and back. Velocity vectors driven by natural convection and temperature contours estimated by numerical simulation verified the effectiveness of the heat accumulator especially after peak solar intensity. The latent heat of wax effectively contributed to a 15% increase in total distillate productivity per day. The still can feasibly meet irrigation water supply demands above an irrigative threshold of 17 MJ/m 2 d.