In the normal osmosis process, the solvent naturally moves from an area of low solute concentration (high water potential), through a membrane, to an area of high solute concentration (low water potential). The driving force for the movement of the solvent is the reduction in the free energy of the system when the difference in solvent concentration on either side of a membrane is reduced, generating osmotic pressure due to the solvent moving into the more concentrated solution. Applying an external pressure to reverse the natural flow of pure solvent, thus, is reverse osmosis. The process is similar to other membrane technology applications.
Chlorine can also come in the form of pre-dosed tablets which would be dropped into a container of water and allowed to sit for 30 to 45 minutes while the chemical begins to destroy the pathogens. Water purification tablets are very convenient for those who are traveling overseas or hiking in the wilderness. The convenience of not having to measure the amount of liquid chlorine and being able to carry the lightweight tablets in a backpack have allowed these tablets to gain much popularity among campers, backpackers, humanitarians, and those traveling to areas where clean water is questionable. Read our article on water purification tablets for a detailed guide on how they work and which brands to use.
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?
The simplest levels of filtration can be achieved by running the water through a cloth. The tighter the weave of the cloth the better it will filter water, as it will be able to capture smaller/finer particles. Just about any cloth will catch the “big” stuff. Folding the cloth to form multiple layers will help in this process. If you are setting up a long term camp, you can set up a more intricate filtration system, that will not only filter particulates, but also improve taste.
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.
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.