One of the first steps in most conventional water purification processes is the addition of chemicals to assist in the removal of particles suspended in water. Particles can be inorganic such as clay and silt or organic such as algae, bacteria, viruses, protozoa and natural organic matter. Inorganic and organic particles contribute to the turbidity and color of water.
Many municipalities have moved from free chlorine to chloramine as a disinfection agent. However, chloramine appears to be a corrosive agent in some water systems. Chloramine can dissolve the "protective" film inside older service lines, leading to the leaching of lead into residential spigots. This can result in harmful exposure, including elevated blood lead levels. Lead is a known neurotoxin.
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.
A Solar Still is a device that can be constructed in order to distill contaminated water into drinking water, or to pull condensation from damp resources in order to produce enough water for consumption. Solar stills can be a life-saving device if stranded in the desert without water or if lost at sea. This simple device uses the sun to evaporate contaminated water from a collection basin and collect the condensation in another basin. The condensation is essentially distilled and drinkable. It can be done with saltwater and can even be constructed to pull moisture from the ground if water isn't available at all. Solar stills can either be constructed out of simple materials or purchased and used for emergency. To learn how to make a solar still in a survival situation or to purchase one in case of emergency, read our detailed article about solar stills here.
This system can purify up to 50 gallons of water per day and has 5 stages of filtration to remove up to 99 percent of TDS. For every gallon of purified water produced, there are 3 gallons of wastewater. This is an average conversion rate and is much better than some water filtration systems that have 4 or 5 gallons of wastewater for every purified gallon produced.
Ultraviolet light (UV) is very effective at inactivating cysts, in low turbidity water. UV light's disinfection effectiveness decreases as turbidity increases, a result of the absorption, scattering, and shadowing caused by the suspended solids. The main disadvantage to the use of UV radiation is that, like ozone treatment, it leaves no residual disinfectant in the water; therefore, it is sometimes necessary to add a residual disinfectant after the primary disinfection process. This is often done through the addition of chloramines, discussed above as a primary disinfectant. When used in this manner, chloramines provide an effective residual disinfectant with very few of the negative effects of chlorination.