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. 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.
Household water treatment systems are composed of two categories: point-of-use and point-of-entryExternal (NSF). Point-of-entry systems are typically installed after the water meter and treat most of the water entering a residence. Point-of-use systems are systems that treat water in batches and deliver water to a tap, such as a kitchen or bathroom sink or an auxiliary faucet mounted next to a tap.
U.S. Army Major Carl Rogers Darnall, Professor of Chemistry at the Army Medical School, gave the first practical demonstration of this in 1910. Shortly thereafter, Major William J. L. Lyster of the Army Medical Department used a solution of calcium hypochlorite in a linen bag to treat water. For many decades, Lyster's method remained the standard for U.S. ground forces in the field and in camps, implemented in the form of the familiar Lyster Bag (also spelled Lister Bag). This work became the basis for present day systems of municipal water purification.
Furthermore, animals have to drink and are known to visit water holes. This raises several concerns, 1) Animals are not very mindful of their toilet etiquette and 2) Predators will sometimes use water holes as a place of attack. If we were desperate, (dying of thirst) and had no way to purify the water, first we really should ask ourselves how we got ourselves into such a situation, then we would have no choice but to drink the water in hopes that we are rescued before the water borne disease kills us. Think outside the box, is there a way to get a makeshift bowl (wood, vegetation) and use hot rocks to boil the water. Is there any material around, bamboo etc that can be used to slowly bring the water to a boil. Build a multiple stage filter using sand, charcoal and sphagnum moss which has been known to contain some levels of iodine. If all that fails then we would be faced with the choice of drinking the untreated water. We know that moving water is preferable to standing water, but what can we do. We can walk around the water source, find the area with the least animal traffic and preferably a sandy shoreline. We can then dig a hole near the water deep enough to allow water to collect. The distance from the water source will have to be judged by the soil we are digging. The hope here is that the water will slowly seep into the hole and begin to collect while being "filtered" by the sand and rocks. At this point we have to get creative to get the water out. Perhaps make a straw out of natural materials or simply soak a bandana and squeeze it into our mouth. This would be a last resort and very risky.
"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: oai.dtic.mil
As with any other filter type water purification method, careful attention has to be taken to pathogen/virus and chemicals size. During hurricane Katrina a lot of the water was contaminated with petroleum based chemicals from flooded cars. What is removed from the water is dependent on the filter pore size. However, it is difficult to beat the lightweight option that water purification straws and bottles provide for most situations.