Visual inspection cannot determine if water is of appropriate quality. Simple procedures such as boiling or the use of a household activated carbon filter are not sufficient for treating all possible contaminants that may be present in water from an unknown source. Even natural spring water – considered safe for all practical purposes in the 19th century – must now be tested before determining what kind of treatment, if any, is needed. Chemical and microbiological analysis, while expensive, are the only way to obtain the information necessary for deciding on the appropriate method of purification.
Only a part of the saline feed water pumped into the membrane assembly passes through the membrane with the salt removed. The remaining "concentrate" flow passes along the saline side of the membrane to flush away the concentrated salt solution. The percentage of desalinated water produced versus the saline water feed flow is known as the "recovery ratio". This varies with the salinity of the feed water and the system design parameters: typically 20% for small seawater systems, 40% – 50% for larger seawater systems, and 80% – 85% for brackish water. The concentrate flow is at typically only 3 bar / 50 psi less than the feed pressure, and thus still carries much of the high-pressure pump input energy.
There are multiple levels of filtration. As long as the water has been purified properly, filtration at this point would mostly be to make the water more attractive. Since most of us are not used to, drinking water with, leaves, algae, dirt, etcetera. So, at least a minimal amount of filtration is recommended. Since, while you can ingest/digest the aforementioned, most of us would prefer not to.
Obviously, reverse osmosis water system for the home will occupy some space in the kitchen. You must have a rough estimate of how much space your reverse osmosis system is going to take. The best approach to have an idea is to first decide whether you are going to set up it on the kitchen table or under the sink. After deciding, measure the space and then check the dimensions of the system that you have chosen.
Despite its efficiency in killing microorganisms, UV radiation will not remove heavy metals and particles. Something else to consider is the high maintenance requirement for a UV purification system. Frequent cleaning and proper part replacement are necessary requirements in maintaining a properly functioning system. Read our article on UV water purification systems for home to find out more.
In some systems, the carbon prefilter is omitted, and a cellulose triacetate membrane is used. CTA (cellulose triacetate) is a paper by-product membrane bonded to a synthetic layer and is made to allow contact with chlorine in the water. These require a small amount of chlorine in the water source to prevent bacteria from forming on it. The typical rejection rate for CTA membranes is 85–95%.
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.