The EPA states that there are four main types of contaminants to be found in water. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), a federal law that protects public drinking water supplies, defines "contaminant" as anything other than water molecules. We can reasonably expect most drinking water to contain some level of contaminant, especially since minerals such as calcium and magnesium fall into that category. The question is, which of these contaminants are harmful and how much of it is entering my system?
A reverse osmosis filter is the do-it-all of water purification. The process is the only one that addresses both harmful microorganisms and pollutants at the same time. It works by forcing water under pressure through a membrane made of thin film composite, with a inner matrix of dense polymers. The result leaves purified water on one side of the membrane, and contaminants on the other side. The technology is reliable, but expensive and relatively cumbersome, and requires electricity to work. It is therefore a sound choice for use in fixed positions or by those who can afford to tow a small trailer with a small electrical generator around, but anyone on the move or without access to electricity needs to use other methods.
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.
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. 

The first documented use of sand filters to purify the water supply dates to 1804, when the owner of a bleachery in Paisley, Scotland, John Gibb, installed an experimental filter, selling his unwanted surplus to the public.[37] This method was refined in the following two decades by engineers working for private water companies, and it culminated in the first treated public water supply in the world, installed by engineer James Simpson for the Chelsea Waterworks Company in London in 1829.[38] This installation provided filtered water for every resident of the area, and the network design was widely copied throughout the United Kingdom in the ensuing decades.
Energy-recovery pump: a reciprocating piston pump having the pressurized concentrate flow applied to one side of each piston to help drive the membrane feed flow from the opposite side. These are the simplest energy recovery devices to apply, combining the high pressure pump and energy recovery in a single self-regulating unit. These are widely used on smaller low-energy systems. They are capable of 3 kWh/m3 or less energy consumption.
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.
On May 20, 2013, Kyle McGonigle was on a dock on Kentucky's Rough River Lake. A dog swimming nearby yelped, and McGonigle, 36, saw that it was struggling to stay above water. He dove in to save the dog, but both he and the animal drowned, victims of electric-shock drowning (ESD). Cords plugged into an outlet on the dock had slipped into the water and electrified it.
On May 20, 2013, Kyle McGonigle was on a dock on Kentucky's Rough River Lake. A dog swimming nearby yelped, and McGonigle, 36, saw that it was struggling to stay above water. He dove in to save the dog, but both he and the animal drowned, victims of electric-shock drowning (ESD). Cords plugged into an outlet on the dock had slipped into the water and electrified it.
Sip on pure, clean water with the addition of the APEC Ultimate 6-Stage Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System for home. This reverse osmosis system is easy to mount under the sink and earns top marks for easy installation and excellent customer service. With super capacity filters, you only need to change the filters once a year to enjoy clean and safe water every day.
The high pressure pump supplies the pressure needed to push water through the membrane, even as the membrane rejects the passage of salt through it. Typical pressures for brackish water range from 1.6 to 2.6 MPa (225 to 376 psi). In the case of seawater, they range from 5.5 to 8 MPa (800 to 1,180 psi). This requires a large amount of energy. Where energy recovery is used, part of the high pressure pump's work is done by the energy recovery device, reducing the system energy inputs.
According to a 2007 World Health Organization (WHO) report, 1.1 billion people lack access to an improved drinking water supply; 88% of the 4 billion annual cases of diarrheal disease are attributed to unsafe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene, while 1.8 million people die from diarrheal disease each year. The WHO estimates that 94% of these diarrheal disease cases are preventable through modifications to the environment, including access to safe water.[1] Simple techniques for treating water at home, such as chlorination, filters, and solar disinfection, and for storing it in safe containers could save a huge number of lives each year.[2] Reducing deaths from waterborne diseases is a major public health goal in developing countries.

Plumbosolvency reduction: In areas with naturally acidic waters of low conductivity (i.e. surface rainfall in upland mountains of igneous rocks), the water may be capable of dissolving lead from any lead pipes that it is carried in. The addition of small quantities of phosphate ion and increasing the pH slightly both assist in greatly reducing plumbo-solvency by creating insoluble lead salts on the inner surfaces of the pipes.
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.