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Water Purification Methods

Drinking contaminated water is one of the worst things you can do for the well being of your health. In fact, according to the WHO( World Health Organization), the bacteria and pathogens of impure water claim more than 3.4 million lives on an annual basis.

There is no shortage of waterborne diseases and cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, guinea worm disease and dysentery are common diseases caused by contaminated water. Waterborne diseases like these quite common in remote regions where access to water purification methods is hard to come by.

This article will shed light on some of the more popular methods used these days to purify water.

  • Filtration
  • Gets rid of: Bacteria, Sediment, Specific Heavy Metals, Large Parasites
  • Advantages: Quick process, Water taste is not changed significantly
  • Disadvantages: The filter needs to be replaced periodically, doesn’t effectively get rid of viruses

This is one of the most common water purification methods for water meant for personal consumption. This is due to the ease of use and versatility of the process. There are a large number of sizes and forms of such water filtration systems and some of them even come with the convenience of being portable.

Typically you find such a system integrated with the sinks and fridges of houses through a connection with the waterline itself.

Working Methodology

The thing that determines what is filtered out is the filter’s pore size which is typically measured in microns. The standard size of 0.2 microns is capable of blocking heavy metals like copper and lead and even parasites that are slightly on the larger size like cryptosporidium. This filter size, however, does not quite block viruses.

In a filtration system activated charcoal and carbon  are set up as a round or cylindrical block. These materials are highly porous and absorb water contaminants with ease. As the water makes its way passing the carbon the contaminants and chemicals attach themselves to the carbon and pure water flows out through the filter’s basin.

Water is made free from no less than 81 chemicals through the use of active carbon. As per studies no fewer than 12 herbicides and 14 pesticides are also filtered out by carbon not to mention the bad odor emanating from water treated with chlorine.

The inner filter of such filtrations systems needs to be replaced from time to time. The latter is determined by the usage and size of the filter but 6 months is a pretty common filter changing the time interval. Water filtration systems that are small and portable need their filters changed with more frequency.

Filtration has been in use for a long time and is still popular even today because it is affordable, portable, easy to use and durable as well.

  • UV or UltraViolet Light Purification)
  • Gets rid of:  Viruses, Bacteria, and Parasites
  • Advantages: Rapid and effective cleaning of water
  • Disadvantages: Electricity is essential, high costs and maintenance, can't rid the water of heavy metals

Though the UV rays of the sun are something we try to avoid due to their role in the development of skin cancer and other diseases, we also have learned to harness its immense destructive effect on microorganisms for our benefit.

So, we use UV rays to decontaminate household water from pathogens and bacteria that pose a hazard to our health. In fact, in advanced countries, UV light led decontamination of water is the standard even at municipal levels. These days the tech is available for home use too.

This method of purifying water is one of the most effective means of getting rid of pathogens from water sources as a large variety of water contaminants are rendered harmless for health through UV radiation including viruses, parasites and molds.

The efficiency of the UV light at killing off harmful microorganisms is determined by the frequency or rather the intensity of the UV light. Higher intensity UV lights are better at getting rid of water off pathogens.

Working Methodology

In this water purification method, a chamber is mounted with UV light and then water is made to pass through this chamber. As a result, harmful bacteria and viruses die instantly as a result of the exposure. This type of water purification kills off as much as 99.99% of all microorganisms contained in the water.

The best thing about the method is that the water itself is not altered in any way and retains its original taste and odor.

One thing that the UV radiation method of purifying water lacks in is its effectiveness in getting rid of particles and heavy metals contained in the water. Another downside is the high maintenance costs and requirements of UV systems.

To ensure that your UV system functions properly you need to clean it up at regular intervals and change parts.

  • Reverse Osmosis
  • Gets rid of: Viruses, Bacteria, Heavy metals and other impurities and Parasites
  • Advantages: Effective removal of microorganisms, better taste
  • Disadvantages: Requires regular maintenance, Costly

In the Reverse Osmosis water purification method, water is guided through a semi-permeable membrane to rid the water of its contaminants.

In the case of osmosis which is a process taking place in nature where a solution with sparse concentration like freshwater has a movement towards a solution whose concentration levels are more like seawater.

Working Methodology of Reverse Osmosis

Through the application of pressure from outside the process of osmosis can be reversed wherein a heavy concentration solution moves towards one whose concentration is less.

When such a solution movement is made to pass through a semipermeable membrane the result is that only smaller molecules can make their way through to form clean, pure water that is contaminant free.

Because in reverse osmosis a semi-permeable membrane acts to filter out molecule level particles it is particularly efficient in getting the water rid of viruses, bacteria, parasite cysts like cryptosporidium and Giardia, heavy metals like mercury and lead, minerals commonly found in hard water like magnesium and calcium and even harmful substances like arsenic and fluoride.

But reverse osmosis fails to remove some varieties of pesticides and solvents that are so small that they pass through the membrane.

Reverse Osmosis or RO systems are popularly abbreviated as is a mainstay method used in the military and bottled water industry. RO systems can be found in homes too, being installed into the waterline letting out pure and clean water through faucets.

The downside of RO systems is that they are costly and need to be maintained with regular servicing. But it is still one of the most efficient ways to purify water that are available today.

Reverse Osmosis for Use in Homes

RO systems are in widespread use for commercial and industrial purposes while there are smaller home variants too which typically have their installation under kitchen sinks and let out through faucets.

In the RO systems, you are likely to find at homes they employ a three-stage system consisting of a carbon filter and re-mineralizing taste filter in addition to the RO membrane. Some RO systems make use of 5, 7 and even 10 stages.

The additional stages result in extra water goodness through things like UV filtration and pH balance, it can generally be said that the purification offered by a 3-stage system should suffice for most purposes. However, it needs proper maintenance.

  • Boiling
  • Gets rid of: Viruses, Bacteria and Parasites
  • Advantages: Free water from all kinds of pathogens is done properly
  • Disadvantages: Takes time and is inconvenient as well, makes the water taste flat

This ancient water purifying method is still widely used in remote and urban areas as well. When water is made to boil, the heat is enough to kill off almost all pathogens and gives safe drinking water.

This age-old water purification method is based on pasteurization that says that most pathogens fail to survive in temperatures that exceed 70 degree celsius provided the milk or in this case water is boiled sufficiently long enough.

What Exactly Do You Need Water to be Purified From?

According to international health bodies, water contaminants are primarily of four main types. As per international law, a water contaminant is anything other than a water molecule. If we are to follow this definition, all water contains some amount of contaminants.

But the crucial question is which water contaminants harm human beings and how do they get into the physical system. These are as follows:

  • Physical Contaminants

These types of contaminants are essentially soil or rock sediments which typically do not harm us biologically. However, intake of too much of large physical contaminants can indeed damage the body.

  • Chemical Contaminants

This contaminant type is both of man-made as well as natural variety including elements and compounds like nitrogen, bleach, toxins, pesticides, mercury, lead, pharma drugs or even by-products of industries.

  • Biological Contaminants

Microorganisms that live in water are referred to as biological contaminants. They include things like viruses, bacteria and even protozoa.

  • Radiological Contaminants

Radiological contaminants are chemical elements that are unstable and emit radiation that can harm us. These include elements like plutonium, cesium and uranium.

Well now that you know about the most popular water purification systems and the kind of contaminants you want your water free from, let's sign off!