10 Ways To Purify Drinking Water

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The 10 best ways to purify water are boiling, chlorination, desalination, distillation, filtration, reverse osmosis, solar water disinfection, UV purification, and the addition of water purification tablets or iodine. 

Water is an essential resource that we need for our daily activities. It is required for drinking, cooking, and washing. However, the quality of water is not always the same everywhere. 

The purity and safety of water can be impacted by various factors such as environmental pollution, industrial waste, sewage, or natural disasters. As such, the need for water purification becomes necessary to ensure that contaminated water is safe for consumption.

What are the benefits of purifying water?

There are many significant benefits to water purification, these include the following:

  • Preventing waterborne diseases 
  • Reducing exposure to chemicals 
  • Improvements in taste, flavor, and odor
  • Reducing plastic pollution/waste – less plastic bottled water is needed
  • Saves money in the long run

To take advantage of these benefits, it’s essential to understand the different methods of purifying water.

Boiling Water

Boiling water is a time-tested method for making water safe for consumption, and it has been used for centuries by people all around the world. Boiling water kills heat-sensitive pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, making the water safe to drink. Once you boil water, the heat destroys the cell walls of these pathogens, rendering them inactive and unable to cause illness.

You need to bring water to a rolling boil and keep it at that temperature for at least one minute. If you are in a high-altitude area, be sure to boil water for at least 3 minutes. Once boiled, always allow it to cool before drinking.

Advantages

  • Low-cost method
  • Easy to perform
  • It doesn’t require much equipment
  • It doesn’t require chemicals 

Disadvantages

  • Boiling water only eliminates heat-sensitive pathogens
  • It cannot remove toxic chemicals like fluoride, heavy metals, and pesticides
  • Boiling water may not be sufficient for water sources that have high levels of pollutants or particulate matter like sand, clay, or sediment

Chlorination

Chlorination is a technique that uses the chemical element chlorine to sanitize water. Chlorine is added to the water supply to kill harmful microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause waterborne illnesses. Chlorine can be applied in different ways, such as adding the chemical directly to the water or generating it on-site using electrolysis.

Advantages

  • Simple
  • Flexible process – chlorine levels can be adjusted to suit the water supply
  • Strong oxidizing properties
  • Cost-effective 
  • Requires minimal infrastructure
  • Can remove unpleasant odors and tastes
  • It is an extremely trusted method – it has been used for over a century
  • It can treat large quantities of water, making it ideal for communities and industrial facilities 

Disadvantages

  • Chlorination can form disinfection byproducts (DBPs) which can be harmful if consumed in large quantities – DBPs are formed when chlorine reacts with organic matter in water – controlling the pH level during chlorination minimizes the level of DBPs
  • Although rare, some people have allergies or sensitivities to chlorine

Filtration

Filtration is a process of separating impurities and contaminants from water by passing it through a medium that traps or absorbs them. Filtration can remove particles, sediment, bacteria, viruses, and chemicals that may be present in water.

There are various methods of filtration that are used to purify water.

Activated Carbon Filters

Activated carbon filters are highly porous and have a large surface area that traps impurities and chemicals. Activated carbon filters are effective in removing chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, and some volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Reverse Osmosis Filters

Reverse osmosis filters use a semipermeable membrane to remove dissolved solids, minerals, and other contaminants from water. They are effective in removing heavy metals, salts, and nitrates.

Ultraviolet Filters

Ultraviolet filters use UV rays to kill bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens in water. They are effective in removing harmful microorganisms that may be present in water.

Ceramic Filters

Ceramic filters use a mixture of diatomaceous earth and clay to filter out bacteria, protozoa, and sediment. They are effective in removing contaminants from untreated surface water sources.

Considerations When Selecting The Filter Type

  • The type of contaminants in the water source
  • The flow rate and capacity of the filter
  • Maintenance requirements
  • Select a filter that is certified by a reputable organization, such as NSF International or the Water Quality Association

Advantages

  • Removes impurities while retaining vital minerals like magnesium, fluoride, calcium, and zinc
  • Cost-effective 

Disadvantages

  • Initial installation is costly
  • The filters need frequent cleaning 
  • Most have a slow flow rate

Distillation

The first step in purifying your water through distillation is choosing a device suited to your needs. Ensure your selected kit has a carbon filter to eliminate any unpleasant taste or odor resulting from the distillation process and is capable of producing a good amount of purified water.

How To Use

  1. Assemble the kit – always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines
  2. Clean all components
  3. Fill the distillation container with water and connect it to the outer heating apparatus
  4. Connect the inner condenser coil to the output water container
  5. Turn on the distillation kit and allow it to heat the water to boiling point – when the heat vaporizes the water, impurities, and contaminants are left behind 
  6. The vapor will rise and condense in the inner coil of the container and then drop into the output container
  7. Carefully pour the purified water into a clean container – the final product you have is pure and contamination-free water

Advantages

  • It removes harmful chemicals in the water
  • It can be used on all types of water
  • It is effective
  • It can be used in remote locations 

Disadvantages

  • It consumes a lot of energy
  • It has high operational costs
  • Some distillation processes have slow output

Desalination

The first and perhaps the most significant benefit of desalination is that it provides a reliable source of clean water to millions of people. 

Desalination plants can quickly be built in coastal regions, providing fresh water that was once impossible to obtain. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Australia are already using desalination technologies to provide their citizens with potable water. With the increasing global population and climate change affecting water sources, desalination will become more critical in the years to come.

Desalination also provides an economic benefit to countries. Several countries have to import water due to their limited water resources, costing them huge sums of money. With a desalination plant in place, these countries can reduce their reliance on imports, save money and stimulate their economies. In addition, many desalination projects have introduced innovations that have created job opportunities in developing countries. 

In addition, desalination is environmentally friendly. Traditional water sources like groundwater and surface water often require additional energy to be purified, involve minimal or significant waste disposal, and can even lead to environmental degradation. In contrast, desalination has a lower environmental impact, as it does not involve intensive water usage, making it a sustainable and eco-friendly solution. 

Advantages

  • Provides people with clean drinking water
  • Provides water to agricultural industries 
  • Highly-effective
  • It is safe – it is not hazardous to living organisms

Disadvantages

  • It can increase greenhouse gas emissions
  • The disposal of toxic brine production is expensive and it has negative impacts on the environment

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis (RO) is a process that uses a semi-permeable membrane. It works by applying pressure to a solution containing impurities, forcing the pure water through a membrane while retaining the impurities. The result is purified, safe drinking water.

Advantages

  • Highly effective – RO can remove up to 99% of water impurities
  • Requires little to no energy to clean the water
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Cost-effective 
  • Easy maintenance

Disadvantages

  • Wastewater is generated which can be an issue in areas where water is scarce
  • RO also removes healthy minerals 

Tips for Choosing a RO System

When choosing a reverse osmosis system, there are several factors to consider. Look for a system that is NSF certified, which ensures that it meets specific health and safety standards. You should also consider the system’s capacity, maintenance requirements, and the amount of wastewater that it generates.

Solar Water Disinfection

Solar water disinfection (SODIS) is a simple and low-cost technology that uses sunlight to purify water. It involves placing water in a clear plastic bottle and exposing it to sunlight for at least six hours.

The UV radiation in sunlight damages the DNA of microorganisms, which disrupts their ability to reproduce. This eventually leads to their death. Additionally, the heat from the sun increases the temperature of the water, which can also help to kill microorganisms. Solar water disinfection is effective against a wide range of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.

Advantages

  • Low-cost
  • Simple technology
  • It doesn’t require any chemicals or specialized equipment
  • Sustainable & environmentally-friendly option
  • As it uses renewable energy (the sun) it doesn’t contribute to greenhouse gas emissions

Disadvantages

  • It requires sunny weather for six hours
  • It can be less effective in areas with high levels of turbidity 
  • Using plastic bottles for SODIS can create a wate disposal problem if they are not properly disposed of or recycled

UV Purification

UV purification is a method of water treatment that uses ultraviolet light to kill or inactivate bacteria, viruses, mold, and other microorganisms. It works by exposing water to UV-C light, which penetrates the cell walls of microorganisms and damages their DNA, rendering them harmless or killing them. The process is reliable and efficient, as it eliminates up to 99.9% of harmful microorganisms.

Advantages

  • It is highly effective in areas where there is no access to clean water or where conventional water treatments fail
  • It is chemical-free and therefore leaves no taste or smell
  • It is eco-friendly 
  • It can also be used to purify water for swimming pools, aquariums, and other water systems 
  • It can be an effective way to control excessive algae growth 

Disadvantages

  • It needs electricity
  • It requires clear water 
  • It can only eliminate microorganisms

Iodine

Iodine is a chemical element that can function as a powerful water disinfectant. 

Before using iodine, it’s essential to check the expiration date. Expired iodine tablets can lose their effectiveness. You will need to use two tablets per liter of water if the water is relatively clear. However, if the water is cloudy or murky, you will need to use three tablets per liter.

You can also purchase iodine droplets that are easy to use. However, the dosage may vary depending on the manufacturer’s instructions.

How To Use

  1. Drop the iodine tablets into the water
  2. Stir the mixture until the iodine is dissolved
  3. Let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes – if the water is cold, allow a minimum of 1 hour
  4. If the water has an unpleasant taste, add a few drops of vitamin C, activated charcoal, or neutralizing tablets in the water 

It’s also important to note that you should not use iodine tablets for more than three weeks straight since they can cause thyroid problems.

Advantages

  • It’s affordable 
  • Highly-effective

Disadvantages

  • Iodine tablets are not effective against the parasite Cryptosporidium
  • Iodine has a strong taste and smell which can be unappealing
  • Iodine can not be safely used for pregnant women, individuals with hyperthyroidism, and people with allergies to iodine

Water Purification Tablets

Water purification tablets are small, easily transportable tablets that can be dissolved in water to make it safe to drink by killing harmful bacteria and viruses.

Advantages

  • Highly effective at killing pathogens
  • Chlorine-based tablets leave no aftertaste or color

Disadvantages

  • Iodine-based tablets can leave an aftertaste and color

Factors To Consider When Choosing Water Purification Tablets

Below are some factors to consider when choosing the right water purification tablets:

Type

There are two types of water purification tablets: those that contain iodine and those that contain chlorine dioxide. Iodine tablets are effective but can leave an aftertaste and color in the water. 

Shelf life

Make sure to check the expiration date of the tablets. Some tablets have a shelf life of up to 5 years, while others have a shorter shelf life.

Quantity

The number of tablets you need depends on the amount of water you need to purify. Be sure to pack enough tablets for the number of liters of water you plan to purify. 

How To Use

  1. Fill a container with water
  2. Drop the tablet into the container and let it dissolve
  3. Let the water stand for approximately 30 minutes
  4. Filter the water through a clean cloth, if required

Summary

With the simple methods outlined, you can guarantee safe drinking water for you and your family.  The method you choose depends on your situation, budget, and the level of contamination in the water source.

If you have any questions regarding water quality or you are unsure what water quality measurements you need to monitor, do not hesitate to contact the world-class team at Atlas Scientific

Water Testing Kits

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