Formally, reverse osmosis is the process of forcing a solvent from a region of high solute concentration through a semipermeable membrane to a region of low-solute concentration by applying a pressure in excess of the osmotic pressure. The largest and most important application of reverse osmosis is the separation of pure water from seawater and brackish waters; seawater or brackish water is pressurized against one surface of the membrane, causing transport of salt-depleted water across the membrane and emergence of potable drinking water from the low-pressure side.
Whether you are on a backpacking trip or find yourself in an unplanned emergency situation our first goal is to locate water. Depending on the location this may prove more difficult than ensuring it's potability. Make sure you are familiar with water sources in the area you plan to travel. Looking at topographical maps is always a good idea. Depending on the dates of the map this could help you find water while backpacking. As with other areas of emergency preparedness, make sure to have a backup plan. Water sources can change with time and seasonal changes. Another important aspect of finding water is the lay of the land. Learning the elevational changes of the area and thinking which way the water would travel during a rain can be another way to locate a water source. For the scope of this article, we will assume that a source has been located.
Prefiltration antiscalants: Scale inhibitors (also known as antiscalants) prevent formation of all scales compared to acid, which can only prevent formation of calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate scales. In addition to inhibiting carbonate and phosphate scales, antiscalants inhibit sulfate and fluoride scales and disperse colloids and metal oxides. Despite claims that antiscalants can inhibit silica formation, no concrete evidence proves that silica polymerization can be inhibited by antiscalants. Antiscalants can control acid-soluble scales at a fraction of the dosage required to control the same scale using sulfuric acid.[23]

The other half of the tag team is to eliminate pollutants. The best way to do this is with a homemade carbon filter. This uses the same technology as Brita filters. Carbon is a chemically active substance, with a tendency to bind to most anything. At a microscopic level, charcoal is a heavily pitted and striated material, which vastly increases its real surface area. The result is that when water slowly runs over charcoal, pollutants find themselves glued to the charcoal surface. An improvised filter can be made out of ground-up charcoal, a strainer and a funnel. Bear Gryllis made a purification drinking straw out of little more than a reed and some charcoal bits for the Discovery Channel's "Man vs. Wild." It's a simple technique, but it is highly effective.
Within the United States Marine Corps, the reverse osmosis water purification unit has been replaced by both the Lightweight Water Purification System and Tactical Water Purification Systems.[14] The Lightweight Water Purification Systems can be transported by Humvee and filter 470 litres (120 US gal) per hour. The Tactical Water Purification Systems can be carried on a Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement truck, and can filter 4,500 to 5,700 litres (1,200 to 1,500 US gal) per hour.[citation needed]

The addition of inorganic coagulants such as aluminum sulfate (or alum) or iron (III) salts such as iron(III) chloride cause several simultaneous chemical and physical interactions on and among the particles. Within seconds, negative charges on the particles are neutralized by inorganic coagulants. Also within seconds, metal hydroxide precipitates of the iron and aluminium ions begin to form. These precipitates combine into larger particles under natural processes such as Brownian motion and through induced mixing which is sometimes referred to as flocculation. Amorphous metal hydroxides are known as "floc". Large, amorphous aluminum and iron (III) hydroxides adsorb and enmesh particles in suspension and facilitate the removal of particles by subsequent processes of sedimentation and filtration.[6]:8.2–8.3