The first experiments into water filtration were made in the 17th century. Sir Francis Bacon attempted to desalinate sea water by passing the flow through a sand filter. Although his experiment did not succeed, it marked the beginning of a new interest in the field. The fathers of microscopy, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Robert Hooke, used the newly invented microscope to observe for the first time small material particles that lay suspended in the water, laying the groundwork for the future understanding of waterborne pathogens.[36]
Reverse osmosis: Mechanical pressure is applied to an impure solution to force pure water through a semi-permeable membrane. Reverse osmosis is theoretically the most thorough method of large scale water purification available, although perfect semi-permeable membranes are difficult to create. Unless membranes are well-maintained, algae and other life forms can colonize the membranes.
In industry, reverse osmosis removes minerals from boiler water at power plants.[15] The water is distilled multiple times. It must be as pure as possible so it does not leave deposits on the machinery or cause corrosion. The deposits inside or outside the boiler tubes may result in under-performance of the boiler, reducing its efficiency and resulting in poor steam production, hence poor power production at the turbine.
The pore size of the filter, usually measured in microns, will determine what will be filtered through. While a standard micron size of 0.2 is small enough to block heavy metals such as lead and copper and large parasites such as Cryptosporidium, it will not block viruses. The National Sanitation Foundation sets a standard for effective water filtration products so look for an NSF stamp when selecting a filter to purchase.
After Hurricane Sandy, many homeowners used portable generators to replace lost power, leaving the machines running overnight and allowing odorless carbon monoxide to waft inside. The gas induces dizziness, headaches, and nausea in people who are awake, but "when people go to sleep with a generator running, there's no chance for them to realize that something's wrong," says Brett Brenner, president of the Electrical Safety Foundation International.

The first continuous use of chlorine in the United States for disinfection took place in 1908 at Boonton Reservoir (on the Rockaway River), which served as the supply for Jersey City, New Jersey.[46] Chlorination was achieved by controlled additions of dilute solutions of chloride of lime (calcium hypochlorite) at doses of 0.2 to 0.35 ppm. The treatment process was conceived by Dr. John L. Leal and the chlorination plant was designed by George Warren Fuller.[47] Over the next few years, chlorine disinfection using chloride of lime were rapidly installed in drinking water systems around the world.[48]

"The overall study results revealed that the CHLOR-FLOC system was not adequate to physically remove, or to provide adequate chemical disinfection of, Cryptosporidium oocysts to the required level of 99.9 percent reduction. Water, Purification, CHLOR-FLOC tablets, Micro-organisms, Cryptosporidium, Klebseilla, Echovirus, Latex beads, Protozoan cysts, Bacteria, Disinfection, Coagulation." Source:
The simplest levels of filtration can be achieved by running the water through a cloth. The tighter the weave of the cloth the better it will filter water, as it will be able to capture smaller/finer particles. Just about any cloth will catch the “big” stuff. Folding the cloth to form multiple layers will help in this process. If you are setting up a long term camp, you can set up a more intricate filtration system, that will not only filter particulates, but also improve taste.
A specific "large-scale" form of slow sand filter is the process of bank filtration, in which natural sediments in a riverbank are used to provide a first stage of contaminant filtration. While typically not clean enough to be used directly for drinking water, the water gained from the associated extraction wells is much less problematic than river water taken directly from the river.
Disinfection is accomplished both by filtering out harmful micro-organisms and by adding disinfectant chemicals. Water is disinfected to kill any pathogens which pass through the filters and to provide a residual dose of disinfectant to kill or inactivate potentially harmful micro-organisms in the storage and distribution systems. Possible pathogens include viruses, bacteria, including Salmonella, Cholera, Campylobacter and Shigella, and protozoa, including Giardia lamblia and other cryptosporidia. After the introduction of any chemical disinfecting agent, the water is usually held in temporary storage – often called a contact tank or clear well – to allow the disinfecting action to complete.

Sea-water reverse-osmosis (SWRO) desalination, a membrane process, has been commercially used since the early 1970s. Its first practical use was demonstrated by Sidney Loeb from University of California at Los Angeles in Coalinga, California, and Srinivasa Sourirajan of National Research Council, Canada. Because no heating or phase changes are needed, energy requirements are low, around 3 kWh/m3, in comparison to other processes of desalination, but are still much higher than those required for other forms of water supply, including reverse osmosis treatment of wastewater, at 0.1 to 1 kWh/m3. Up to 50% of the seawater input can be recovered as fresh water, though lower recoveries may reduce membrane fouling and energy consumption.
Distillation involves boiling the water to produce water vapour. The vapour contacts a cool surface where it condenses as a liquid. Because the solutes are not normally vaporised, they remain in the boiling solution. Even distillation does not completely purify water, because of contaminants with similar boiling points and droplets of unvapourised liquid carried with the steam. However, 99.9% pure water can be obtained by distillation.
Boiling: Bringing water to its boiling point (about 100 °C or 212 F at sea level), is the oldest and most effective way since it eliminates most microbes causing intestine related diseases,[21] but it cannot remove chemical toxins or impurities.[22] For human health, complete sterilization of water is not required, since the heat resistant microbes are not intestine affecting.[21] The traditional advice of boiling water for ten minutes is mainly for additional safety, since microbes start getting eliminated at temperatures greater than 60 °C (140 °F). Though the boiling point decreases with increasing altitude, it is not enough to affect the disinfecting process.[21][23] In areas where the water is "hard" (that is, containing significant dissolved calcium salts), boiling decomposes the bicarbonate ions, resulting in partial precipitation as calcium carbonate. This is the "fur" that builds up on kettle elements, etc., in hard water areas. With the exception of calcium, boiling does not remove solutes of higher boiling point than water and in fact increases their concentration (due to some water being lost as vapour). Boiling does not leave a residual disinfectant in the water. Therefore, water that is boiled and then stored for any length of time may acquire new pathogens.
Photo by Philip ChoiPlan a menu ahead of time and keep things as simple as possible. The type and amount of food you carry will vary, depending on whether you are traveling in a vehicle or hiking deep into the wilderness on foot. If you are carrying everything on your back, pack dry and dehydrated foods that you can prepare with hot water. A large variety of pre-packaged meals are available at most camping stores, or you can make them at home. A small bottle of oil, seasonings, granola bars, summer sausage, jerky, and crackers are also good options.
A reverse osmosis filter is the do-it-all of water purification. The process is the only one that addresses both harmful microorganisms and pollutants at the same time. It works by forcing water under pressure through a membrane made of thin film composite, with a inner matrix of dense polymers. The result leaves purified water on one side of the membrane, and contaminants on the other side. The technology is reliable, but expensive and relatively cumbersome, and requires electricity to work. It is therefore a sound choice for use in fixed positions or by those who can afford to tow a small trailer with a small electrical generator around, but anyone on the move or without access to electricity needs to use other methods.
In 1904, Allen Hazen showed that the efficiency of a sedimentation process was a function of the particle settling velocity, the flow through the tank and the surface area of tank. Sedimentation tanks are typically designed within a range of overflow rates of 0.5 to 1.0 gallons per minute per square foot (or 1.25 to 2.5 litres per square meter per hour). In general, sedimentation basin efficiency is not a function of detention time or depth of the basin. Although, basin depth must be sufficient so that water currents do not disturb the sludge and settled particle interactions are promoted. As particle concentrations in the settled water increase near the sludge surface on the bottom of the tank, settling velocities can increase due to collisions and agglomeration of particles. Typical detention times for sedimentation vary from 1.5 to 4 hours and basin depths vary from 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 meters).[6]:9.39–9.40[7]:790–1[8]:140–2, 171