Visual inspection cannot determine if water is of appropriate quality. Simple procedures such as boiling or the use of a household activated carbon filter are not sufficient for treating all possible contaminants that may be present in water from an unknown source. Even natural spring water – considered safe for all practical purposes in the 19th century – must now be tested before determining what kind of treatment, if any, is needed. Chemical and microbiological analysis, while expensive, are the only way to obtain the information necessary for deciding on the appropriate method of purification.
Visual inspection cannot determine if water is of appropriate quality. Simple procedures such as boiling or the use of a household activated carbon filter are not sufficient for treating all possible contaminants that may be present in water from an unknown source. Even natural spring water – considered safe for all practical purposes in the 19th century – must now be tested before determining what kind of treatment, if any, is needed. Chemical and microbiological analysis, while expensive, are the only way to obtain the information necessary for deciding on the appropriate method of purification.

Pretreatment is important when working with reverse osmosis and nanofiltration membranes due to the nature of their spiral-wound design. The material is engineered in such a fashion as to allow only one-way flow through the system. As such, the spiral-wound design does not allow for backpulsing with water or air agitation to scour its surface and remove solids. Since accumulated material cannot be removed from the membrane surface systems, they are highly susceptible to fouling (loss of production capacity). Therefore, pretreatment is a necessity for any reverse osmosis or nanofiltration system. Pretreatment in sea water reverse osmosis systems has four major components:
Radium Removal: Some groundwater sources contain radium, a radioactive chemical element. Typical sources include many groundwater sources north of the Illinois River in Illinois, United States of America. Radium can be removed by ion exchange, or by water conditioning. The back flush or sludge that is produced is, however, a low-level radioactive waste.

The Zip has a similar footprint and appearance similar to a pod coffee maker, but instead of serving up java, this mighty machine delivers purified water. Pour tap water into the reservoir and the Zip will give you a 0.5 gallon of filtered, pH-balanced water in about 15 minutes. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to empty the tank of purified water before you can add water to the fill-up tank for another round of filtration.
Gas hydrate crystals centrifuge method. If carbon dioxide or other low molecular weight gas is mixed with contaminated water at high pressure and low temperature, gas hydrate crystals will form exothermically. Separation of the crystalline hydrate may be performed by centrifuge or sedimentation and decanting. Water can be released from the hydrate crystals by heating[25]

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.
Organic polymers were developed in the 1960s as aids to coagulants and, in some cases, as replacements for the inorganic metal salt coagulants. Synthetic organic polymers are high molecular weight compounds that carry negative, positive or neutral charges. When organic polymers are added to water with particulates, the high molecular weight compounds adsorb onto particle surfaces and through interparticle bridging coalesce with other particles to form floc. PolyDADMAC is a popular cationic (positively charged) organic polymer used in water purification plants.[7]:667–8
If the right equipment is available distillation is another way to ensure removal of bacteria and viruses. This is one method that will allow us to use salt water for drinking. Note: If you own a boat and use it for off shore trips a desalinator such as the Katadyn Survivor series would be a prudent purchase. The Katadyn Survivor 40E can be operated manually or using 12/24 V DC power. We will cover makeshift ways of distillation in future articles.
Radium Removal: Some groundwater sources contain radium, a radioactive chemical element. Typical sources include many groundwater sources north of the Illinois River in Illinois, United States of America. Radium can be removed by ion exchange, or by water conditioning. The back flush or sludge that is produced is, however, a low-level radioactive waste.
Slow sand filters may be used where there is sufficient land and space, as the water flows very slowly through the filters. These filters rely on biological treatment processes for their action rather than physical filtration. They are carefully constructed using graded layers of sand, with the coarsest sand, along with some gravel, at the bottom and finest sand at the top. Drains at the base convey treated water away for disinfection. Filtration depends on the development of a thin biological layer, called the zoogleal layer or Schmutzdecke, on the surface of the filter. An effective slow sand filter may remain in service for many weeks or even months, if the pretreatment is well designed, and produces water with a very low available nutrient level which physical methods of treatment rarely achieve. Very low nutrient levels allow water to be safely sent through distribution systems with very low disinfectant levels, thereby reducing consumer irritation over offensive levels of chlorine and chlorine by-products. Slow sand filters are not backwashed; they are maintained by having the top layer of sand scraped off when flow is eventually obstructed by biological growth.[10]

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 APEC Ultimate 6-Stage Reverse Osmosis system removes up to 99 percent of bacteria, contaminants, and solids. But it also adds back in calcium and magnesium, which are beneficial minerals for your health and improve the taste of drinking water. The system is rated for purifying up to 75 gallons per day, which is plenty for the average family’s daily needs. The system includes a flow restrictor and an automatic shutoff valve that help to reduce wastewater to 3 gallons for every 1 gallon of purified water produced. Some other systems produce in excess of 5 gallons of wastewater to every 1 gallon of purified water.

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


In recent years, energy consumption has dropped to around 3 kWh/m3, with the development of more efficient energy recovery devices and improved membrane materials. According to the International Desalination Association, for 2011, reverse osmosis was used in 66% of installed desalination capacity (0.0445 of 0.0674 km³/day), and nearly all new plants.[19] Other plants mainly use thermal distillation methods: multiple-effect distillation and multi-stage flash.
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]
Water Waste Unlike traditional water filters, not all of the water that is pumped through a reverse osmosis filter comes out the other side as drinkable water. Only a relatively small percentage—50 percent or less—is filtered, and the rest is considered waste. When possible, avoid units with 75 percent or more waste, especially if you are treating a high volume of water per day.
Found on small or moderate-size streams and rivers, low-head dams are used to regulate water flow or prevent invasive species from swimming upstream. But watch out. "They're called drowning machines because they could not be designed better to drown people," says Kevin Colburn of American Whitewater, a nonprofit whitewater preservation group. To a boater heading downstream, the dams look like a single line of flat reflective water. But water rushing over the dam creates a spinning cylinder of water that can trap a capsized boater.

There are five types of contaminants that are found in water: particulates, bacteria, minerals, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. Methods to remove these elements range from simple and inexpensive to elaborate and costly. Often to achieve purely potable water, several technologies must be combined in a particular sequence. Listed here are general brief descriptions of the twenty-five methods to purify water.


Some small-scale desalination units use 'beach wells'; they are usually drilled on the seashore in close vicinity to the ocean. These intake facilities are relatively simple to build and the seawater they collect is pretreated via slow filtration through the subsurface sand/seabed formations in the area of source water extraction. Raw seawater collected using beach wells is often of better quality in terms of solids, silt, oil and grease, natural organic contamination and aquatic microorganisms, compared to open seawater intakes. Sometimes, beach intakes may also yield source water of lower salinity.
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