Cut the bottom of a plastic bottle off -- these can be found almost everywhere at no cost. Replace the bottle cap with a cheesecloth/fine cloth, tied on with a rubber band and secure. Place it on a cup, with the cloth facing towards the ground. Put fine sand, charcoal, coarse sand and rocks in the bottle in the order listed. Pour water inside. Capture the water that has now been purified.
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.
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.
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.
The other options involve chemical agents. Hikers have long been familiar with using iodine tablets to kill microorganisms in local water sources. A typical example would be a tiny pellet being good for a quart of water. Bleach has been popular in poorer countries for decades as a means of killing microorganisms in local tap water, and works just as well with other sources. Eight drops per gallon will make the water safe to drink. Both methods should be allowed half an hour to do their job.
Reverse osmosis differs from filtration in that the mechanism of fluid flow is by osmosis across a membrane. The predominant removal mechanism in membrane filtration is straining, or size exclusion, where the pores are 0.01 micrometers or larger, so the process can theoretically achieve perfect efficiency regardless of parameters such as the solution's pressure and concentration. Reverse osmosis instead involves solvent diffusion across a membrane that is either nonporous or uses nanofiltration with pores 0.001 micrometers in size. The predominant removal mechanism is from differences in solubility or diffusivity, and the process is dependent on pressure, solute concentration, and other conditions. Reverse osmosis is most commonly known for its use in drinking water purification from seawater, removing the salt and other effluent materials from the water molecules.
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.
In 1977 Cape Coral, Florida became the first municipality in the United States to use the RO process on a large scale with an initial operating capacity of 11.35 million liters (3 million US gal) per day. By 1985, due to the rapid growth in population of Cape Coral, the city had the largest low-pressure reverse-osmosis plant in the world, capable of producing 56.8 million liters (15 million US gal) per day (MGD).
Upland lakes and reservoirs: Typically located in the headwaters of river systems, upland reservoirs are usually sited above any human habitation and may be surrounded by a protective zone to restrict the opportunities for contamination. Bacteria and pathogen levels are usually low, but some bacteria, protozoa or algae will be present. Where uplands are forested or peaty, humic acids can colour the water. Many upland sources have low pH which require adjustment.
Within the United States Marine Corps, the reverse osmosis water purification unit has been replaced by both the Lightweight Water Purification System and Tactical Water Purification Systems. The Lightweight Water Purification Systems can be transported by Humvee and filter 470 litres (120 US gal) per hour. The Tactical Water Purification Systems can be carried on a Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement truck, and can filter 4,500 to 5,700 litres (1,200 to 1,500 US gal) per hour.
Distillation is a water purification method that utilizes heat to collect pure water in the form of vapor. This method is effective by the scientific fact that water has a lower boiling point than other contaminants and disease-causing elements found in water. Water is subjected to a heat source until it attains its boiling point. It is then left at the boiling point until it vaporizes. This vapor is directed into a condenser to cool. Upon cooling, vapor is reversed into liquid water that is clean and safe for drinking. Other substances that have a higher boiling point are left as sediments in the container.
What many poor people, backcountry hikers, and those living in remote areas have in common are a reliance on untreated, local sources of water that may be contaminated, and must be purified before it can be safely consumed. There are two basic approaches to water purification: using a reverse osmosis filter, or a tag team of two methods working together to eliminate two separate contaminants.
Photo by mr.smashyContingencies in the wilderness abound, so it is important to plan for as many as possible. A compass will help you find your way; even better is a handheld GPS device. Flashlights and glow sticks help you find your way in the dark, and a flare gun will assist others in finding you during an emergency. For setting up camp, Paracord or rope, a tarp, duct tape, and cable ties are indispensable. Also vital is a good multi-tool, folding shovel, and gloves. Include waterproof matches, lighter, and fire starting kit; redundancy is a good thing in this instance. In a small tin, pack fishhooks and line, razor blades, sewing needles and thread, safety pins, nails, a small magnet, and some cash.
Post-treatment consists of preparing the water for distribution after filtration. Reverse osmosis is an effective barrier to pathogens, but post-treatment provides secondary protection against compromised membranes and downstream problems. Disinfection by means of ultraviolet (UV) lamps (sometimes called germicidal or bactericidal) may be employed to sterilize pathogens which bypassed the reverse-osmosis process. Chlorination or chloramination (chlorine and ammonia) protects against pathogens which may have lodged in the distribution system downstream, such as from new construction, backwash, compromised pipes, etc.
The Lifestraw go simplifies water purification by allowing users to scoop water from a river or other unsafe water source into the bottle, screw the lid on, and sip clean water through the mouthpiece. We have not had the opportunity to test the Lifestraw go. We would be interested in comparing it to the Sawyer Personal Water Bottle. Our next post will be a test of the Sawyer bottle.
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.
Granular Activated Carbon adsorption: a form of activated carbon with a high surface area, adsorbs many compounds including many toxic compounds. Water passing through activated carbon is commonly used in municipal regions with organic contamination, taste or odors. Many household water filters and fish tanks use activated carbon filters to further purify the water. Household filters for drinking water sometimes contain silver as metallic silver nanoparticle. If water is held in the carbon block for longer periods, microorganisms can grow inside which results in fouling and contamination. Silver nanoparticles are excellent anti-bacterial material and they can decompose toxic halo-organic compounds such as pesticides into non-toxic organic products. Filtered water must be used soon after it is filtered, as the low amount of remaining microbes may proliferate over time. In general, these home filters remove over 90% of the chlorine available to a glass of treated water. These filters must be periodically replaced otherwise the bacterial content of the water may actually increase due to the growth of bacteria within the filter unit.
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.