All About Water Purification
Water purification is the process of removing contaminants. The Earth is 71% covered in water, however only about 2.5% of that water is fresh water, or drinkable water. With an increasing population, and decreasing access, purifying water is critical. By 2025 1.8 million people will live in areas with water scarcity according to the United Nations. Turning more of the planet's drinkable water into purified water is important for the future of humanity.
Water purification removes biological, chemical and solid contaminants from drinking water. Waterborne disease like hepatitis, typhoid fever, pontiac fever, giardiasis (commonly known as "beaver fever"), legionnaire's disease, cholera, amebiasis or viral gastroenteritis often leak into drinking water supplies. Small bugs and larvae also can exist in freshwater, as well as other microorganisms. Along with biological contaminants, there are a variety of chemicals that are carried by water. Water carries acidity, sediments, lead, iron, sodium, pesticides, or sometimes even radiation. H2O's chemical qualities, which helped enable life to form in the first place, also enable it to carry unneeded elements into everyday drinking water.
The process of providing clean water to households use a combination of procedures. Water purification methods can range from chlorination, filtration, pasteurization, ultraviolet radiation (UV), distillation, or, in emergencies, even to simply boiling. The Safe Water Drinking Act (1974) enforces health standards for the United States, and requires public notifications of potential contaminants. It is recommended that everyone should pay attention to community notifications and follow instructions regarding how to treat contaminated water. Billions of dollars are spent creating America's safe water. Despite the amount of resources spent on delivering acceptable water some states and municipalities fall short.
Instead of relying solely on the civic water treatment system, individuals can add an at-home water purifier. These systems are either Point of Use (POU) or Point of Entry (POE) filters. Filters range in pore size and efficiency. Pores are usually between .001 of a millimeter (a micron), or .001 of a micron (a nanometer). They also range in material; carbon, iron, or a mechanical filter. Each type of filter addresses different issues and targets specific contaminants. For example, water with an unusual order needs a carbon filter. Home water purification systems provide added security to ensure truly clean, safe water.
In emergency situations, the ability to purify and conserve water is critical. The rule of thumb is to collect and store one gallon of water per person per day. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) insists on using safe sources of water first. If no other reliably clean water options are available water can be treated by either boiling (allowing for five minutes of rolling bubbles), chlorinating (using 8 drops of unscented household bleach per gallon of water), distilling (by collecting water vapors after boiling), or using a combination of those methods. If cloudy or dirty water is consumed it could make an emergency situation even worse.
In a survival situations or simply when in a remote area without access to plumbing water still needs to be filtered in order to consume it. When individuals don't have a container to boil water, or have difficulty making a fire there are other options. Tablets, iodine drops, or bleach is used to chemically water (it is usually recommended to pack these items before hiking or camping trips). If possible, water should be taken from a moving or fast-moving source like a stream. If water continues to be muddy or foul-smelling, let the water sit for a while to let the silt drift to the bottom, or a make-shift water filter can be used.
Avoid ingesting bacteria, viruses, bugs, sediment, or a variety of metals and chemicals by purifying drinking water. Remove contaminants from tap water in the home, in emergency situations, or in survival mode with any of these methods.
Check out these resources:
- Water on Tap What You Need to Know
- Food & Water Water Contaminants and Purification Guide
- The Story of Drinking Water
- Survival Guide Water Purification
- The Backpacker's Field Manual Guide to Water Purification
- Home Water Treatment Systems
- Understanding Home Water Treatment Systems
- A Guide To Drinking Water Treatment Technologies for Household Use
- Emergency Water Purification
- Emergency Preparedness Managing Water
- Desalination and Water Purification Technology Roadmap Report