Compared to reverse osmosis, filtration is considered effective when it comes to selective elimination of much smaller molecular compounds such as chlorine and pesticides. The other factor that makes filtration less costly is that it does not require a lot of energy needed in distillation and reverse osmosis. It is an economic method of water purification because little water is lost during purification.
Brackish water reverse osmosis refers to desalination of water with a lower salt content than sea water, usually from river estuaries or saline wells. The process is substantially the same as sea water reverse osmosis, but requires lower pressures and therefore less energy. Up to 80% of the feed water input can be recovered as fresh water, depending on feed salinity.
Large-scale industrial/municipal systems recover typically 75% to 80% of the feed water, or as high as 90%, because they can generate the high pressure needed for higher recovery reverse osmosis filtration. On the other hand, as recovery of wastewater increases in commercial operations, effective contaminant removal rates tend to become reduced, as evidenced by product water total dissolved solids levels.
Electrodeionization: Water is passed between a positive electrode and a negative electrode. Ion exchange membranes allow only positive ions to migrate from the treated water toward the negative electrode and only negative ions toward the positive electrode. High purity deionized water is produced continuously, similar to ion exchange treatment. Complete removal of ions from water is possible if the right conditions are met. The water is normally pre-treated with a reverse osmosis unit to remove non-ionic organic contaminants, and with gas transfer membranes to remove carbon dioxide. A water recovery of 99% is possible if the concentrate stream is fed to the RO inlet.
A reverse osmosis water purification unit (ROWPU) is a portable, self-contained water treatment plant. Designed for military use, it can provide potable water from nearly any water source. There are many models in use by the United States armed forces and the Canadian Forces. Some models are containerized, some are trailers, and some are vehicles unto themselves.
The cellulose triacetate membrane is prone to rotting unless protected by chlorinated water, while the thin film composite membrane is prone to breaking down under the influence of chlorine. A thin film composite (TFC) membrane is made of synthetic material, and requires chlorine to be removed before the water enters the membrane. To protect the TFC membrane elements from chlorine damage, carbon filters are used as pre-treatment in all residential reverse osmosis systems. TFC membranes have a higher rejection rate of 95–98% and a longer life than CTA membranes.
Ozone disinfection, or ozonation, Ozone is an unstable molecule which readily gives up one atom of oxygen providing a powerful oxidizing agent which is toxic to most waterborne organisms. It is a very strong, broad spectrum disinfectant that is widely used in Europe and in a few municipalities in the United States and Canada. It is an effective method to inactivate harmful protozoa that form cysts. It also works well against almost all other pathogens. Ozone is made by passing oxygen through ultraviolet light or a "cold" electrical discharge. To use ozone as a disinfectant, it must be created on-site and added to the water by bubble contact. Some of the advantages of ozone include the production of fewer dangerous by-products and the absence of taste and odour problems (in comparison to chlorination). No residual ozone is left in the water. In the absence of a residual disinfectant in the water, chlorine or chloramine may be added throughout a distribution system to remove any potential pathogens in the distribution piping.
While reverse osmosis systems are widely used for industrial and commercial purposes, smaller home units can be purchased and installed under the kitchen sink and dispensed through the faucet. Home RO units typically run on a 3-stage system which includes a carbon filter, RO membrane, and re-mineralizing filter for taste. Some systems can include 5, 7, or even 10 stages. While the additional stages offer extra benefits such as pH level balance and UV filtration, a simple 3-stage system has everything required to produce pure, drinkable water. RO systems require frequent maintenance and replacement of filters in order to keep it functioning properly. Read our article on reverse osmosis systems for home use for a detailed guide on how they work and which brands to use.
Inclined flat plates or tubes can be added to traditional sedimentation basins to improve particle removal performance. Inclined plates and tubes drastically increase the surface area available for particles to be removed in concert with Hazen's original theory. The amount of ground surface area occupied by a sedimentation basin with inclined plates or tubes can be far smaller than a conventional sedimentation basin.
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.
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.
Groundwater: The water emerging from some deep ground water may have fallen as rain many tens, hundreds, or thousands of years ago. Soil and rock layers naturally filter the ground water to a high degree of clarity and often, it does not require additional treatment besides adding chlorine or chloramines as secondary disinfectants. Such water may emerge as springs, artesian springs, or may be extracted from boreholes or wells. Deep ground water is generally of very high bacteriological quality (i.e., pathogenic bacteria or the pathogenic protozoa are typically absent), but the water may be rich in dissolved solids, especially carbonates and sulfates of calcium and magnesium. Depending on the strata through which the water has flowed, other ions may also be present including chloride, and bicarbonate. There may be a requirement to reduce the iron or manganese content of this water to make it acceptable for drinking, cooking, and laundry use. Primary disinfection may also be required. Where groundwater recharge is practiced (a process in which river water is injected into an aquifer to store the water in times of plenty so that it is available in times of drought), the groundwater may require additional treatment depending on applicable state and federal regulations.
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).:9.39–9.40:790–1:140–2, 171