I've sectioned of this area in the sea near my base, and I need to get rid of all the water from it.

From what I've tried the only way I can see to clear it is fully cover one layer, delete the blocks, then go down to the next layer. Is that the only way I can clear the area or is there a better approach?

Ideally I'd like a survival method (if there is a better one), but any commands what could be used I'd like to hear just so I can learn more commands :) enter image description here

  • 1
    you can make a 1 block high wall at the water's edge and place sand/gravel blocks so they drop into the water, this would be easier done in create mode, otherwise i think MCEdit has a tool to replace 1 kind of block with another (in an old version at least)
    – Memor-X
    Commented Jul 6, 2014 at 23:37
  • Either that or enable snapshots and use sponges. But the sand should work well. I just recently cleared out a circle 13 blocks deep and 51 blocks in diameter using sand. Took a long time.
    – Johonn
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 0:58
  • I tried sponges, but it was really awkward as the water kept filling in. It might have worked if I had about 20 sponges, but one at a time just wasn't fast at all. Good idea though, I completely forgot about sponges :).
    – TMH
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 13:13

5 Answers 5


There are two good ways to do this, I call them The Gravity Method and The Fire Method. Both have been tested in this 8 x 8 area in a shallow river to compare the two:

walling off an 8x8 area in a river

The Gravity Method

Use a block affected by gravity (either sand or gravel) and fill up the area. Do this by quickly placing the blocks in the same spot, while letting them fall to the bottom:

placing a gravel block in a corner

Repeat this until you have filled the entire area with sand or gravel:

the whole cube is now filled with gravel

Dig down to the bottom in one of the corners until you are under a solid block under the gravel:

digging to one block below the gravel

Either delete a block under the solid block holding up the gravel and place a torch:

placing a torch under the dirt holding up the gravel

Destroy the block above the torch and soak up all the dropped blocks:

destroying the dirt holding up the gravel

Repeat this process until you have emptied the entire area:

the cube is empty, with torches on the bottom

The Fire Method

This method will only work if the outside barrier of the area is not flammable, otherwise it will make a huge mess.

Firstly, use flammable blocks to fill the area. I used wool to demonstrate, but a more cost effective option would be to use either wooden planks, or harvest leaves from trees with shears.

the entire cube filled with wool

Grab a flint and steel and BURN!

the fire consumes the wool, leaving empty space in its place


once again, the cube is empty


After looking at the final results you can see that the Gravity Method required me to dig deeper than the Fire Method, therefore taking more time.

The Fire Method was quicker overall; it took longer to fill the area with blocks, but burnt all of the wool out in about 30 seconds. The Fire Method was my personal favorite.

If you don't want to get wet, The Gravity Method doesn't require you to go in the water, otherwise the Fire Method should dry you out after a refreshing swim.

World Edit

If you have access to worldedit you can select the area using your wand (//wand) or by using //pos1 and //pos2 , then using the command //replace water air.

This will replace all of the water in the area with air.

I tested this command on a beautiful landscape to demonstrate:

a river flowing in a hilly landscape

After the command //replace water air:

the river is abruptly cut

1.8 Update

Note: screenshots were taken in Snapshot 14w28b.

The upcoming 1.8 update brings sponges back to survival mode, creating another option for the removal of water. Wet sponges can be obtained in Ocean Monuments or by defeating the Elder Guardian, then be dried out in a furnace to get dry sponge. Dry sponge will soak up water and turn back into a wet sponge, and can be dried out and reused indefinitely.

To test the usability of sponge I created another closed off area, much deeper this time, to test the performance of sponges compared to the other methods stated earlier:

a walled off cube in a river

The first thing you will notice about the new sponges is that once they are placed, the area they soaked up will fill back up instantly if enough water source blocks are around:

Just as sponge is placed:

water flows back to cover the spots emptied by the sponge

After water has refilled:

the sponge can no longer absorb water, and the area surrounding it has filled with water again

I found that the only way for the sponges to work somewhat effectively was to split the area into sections, using a sponge in each section. The problem with this is that you must do this for each level, which would be very time consuming:

partitioning each level into areas that a single sponge can handle

It is apparent that sponges are not very good at removing large quantities of water. However they are helpful for emptying small ponds or draining a small room. I would still recommend using either the Gravity Method or the Fire Method for larger or deeper areas, as they are quicker and easier than using sponges.

  • 10
    If you're quick, you could dig out a sand block and put a torch in its place simultaneously, saving a bit of time
    – flaviut
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 5:59
  • 2
    Thanks for all the solutions, I think I'm going to use the gravity method :).
    – TMH
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 6:23
  • 1
    Thank you so much for this solution by the way. I've been wanting to make underwater structures for ages, and I never even thought to use something as common as gravel (or, dare I say, SAND) to make an easy-to-clear filling. You are a lifesaver.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 14:52
  • 1
    I've used the gravity method (using the method flavuit mentioned for quick removal), but use a mix of gravel & sand -- build a pier out to where you want to excavate, then drop gravel to wall off the area to be drained. Fill in using sand. This allows you to more easily tell which walls to not remove. (we were draining a massive area, and had to grid it out to work in sections, as you'd burn through a full inventory of sand). A bucket of water makes fast work of the torches, plus a stack of ladders and it's a quick job. (we spend days on it before I realized the torch trick)
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 13, 2014 at 23:06
  • 2
    For the fire method, I recommend using sheared leaves rather than wool, since they can be farmed more quickly.
    – MrLemon
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 9:22

Caleb pretty much covered it all. I just wanted to add that when using WorldEdit, I find it often easier to use the //drain <radius> command.

To use it in the situation shown in the picture, all you have to do is stand inside the box with the water you want to remove and do something like //drain 100. As long as the radius is larger than the distance from you to the farthest block of water you want to remove it will only change all the water in the box to air.

  • 1
    The problem with that command is that water outside the box will also be replaced with air, which would look terrible. This is because that radius is a circle property and the OP is trying to drain a square box.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 23:08
  • The water block should refill instantly though, since the source blocks will replicate rather quickly.
    – Nelson
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 3:12
  • @Nelson The edges of the radius will fill with flowing water blocks, but unless you have a really small radius (1-2 blocks) the whole thing will not fill back up. Commented May 26, 2016 at 3:33

Try my personal favorite, /fill! :D

/fill X1 Y1 Z1 X2 Y2 Z2 minecraft:air

The whole area will be removed! Have fun! 😃


I had the same problem or at least a similar one. Some water had somehow leaked onto a structure and it seemed that everything I did made it worse.

So I placed about three sponges in there and deleted them, then presto, all the water was gone. It's much less destructive than fire, faster than filling the area with blocks and much easier than using Worldedit.


If you put the sponges in a row very quickly, it will prevent the water from refilling.

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