Drinking Water Options

Local water companies are supposed to provide biologically and chemically safe water that has most objectionable taste and odour causing substances removed. However this is not always the case. Not all bacteria can be removed through chemical disinfection. If you drink municipal “tap water”, you may run the risk of contracting illnesses ranging from diarrhoea to serious gastrointestinal complications.  The chemicals used at public water purification facilities are health hazards to humans, as well as the germs they target. They can cause skin irritations, digestive problems and have also been linked to various forms of cancer. Another problem that public purification planets cannot address is the by-products of disinfection.

As municipal water is distributed through your home via plumbing, there is a risk of contamination from lead leaching into the water supply from pipes and/or fixtures.

So which drinking water option is best?

Did the water in the bottle you just purchased really come from the beautiful spring shown on the label? Probably not. Some of the bottle water manufacturers using marketing that are misleading, implying the water comes from pristine sources when it does not. According to various environmental sources and industry estimates about ¼ of bottled water is bottled tap water, sometimes with additional treatment, and sometimes not.

Bottled Water

Bottled water is a good emergency source of water in the event your primary water source fails or becomes contaminated. It is also a convenient source of usually safe water for drinking outside of the home. Again most bottled water will contain fewer contaminates than untreated tap water. However the great disadvantage is cost. An average family of four drinking 30 gallons of water a week will spend £300.00 just on drinking water a year.

 There is also the environmental impact to consider. The PET bottles used eventually cause a waste disposal problem. Transporting these bottles from the bottler to the store and then the homes/offices also use valuable resources such as oil. There is also a potential health risk associated with plastic bottles; some researchers have suggested that plastic bottles contain the chemical BPA which may be harmful to our health. The FDA and American Plastics Association insist BPA is safe, Frederick Vom Saal, an outspoken biology professor and other scientists believe it can cause cancer, early puberty, obesity and even attention deficit disorders. Lastly there is also the inconvenience factor, of having to move and store the bottles safely.

Water Filters

There are over 2,500 different models manufactured by more than 500 companies. However the basic concept behind nearly all filters is very simple. They work by physically preventing contaminants from moving through the filter. There are 4 main types of filters

(1) Sediment Filters - trap contaminants by screening them out with very small pores. Basically come in 2 varieties – Fibre and Ceramic. Fibre filters contain cellulose, rayon or some other fibrous material spun into a mesh with small pores, while ceramic filters contain some ceramic materials with smaller pores than fibre filters. Sediment filters are often used as pre-filters to reduce the suspended contaminants that could clog carbon filters or RO filters.

(2) Carbon Filters - trap contaminants by attracting them through the process of absorption to the surface of carbon particles. Two types of carbon filters – Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) and Solid Block Activated Carbon (SBAC).
Contaminant reduction in carbon filters takes place by the physical removal of the contaminant by blocking any particles too big to pass through the pores, or through absorption by which a variety of dissolved contaminates are attracted to and held on the surface of the carbon particles.

The disadvantages of carbon filters include the fact that water is able to channel around the granules in GAC filters to avoid filtration, and pockets of contaminated water can form in loose bed of carbon granules. Also carbon filters by themselves, cannot trap bacteria, therefore should never be relied on exclusively to provide protection from contamination. Lastly hot water should never be run through a carbon filter.

(3) Reverse Osmosis Filters – use water pressure to force water molecules through a membrane that has extremely tiny pores, leaving the large contaminants behind.

This is a separation process which uses water pressure to force water molecules through a semipermeable membrane. Purified water is collected from the “clean” side of the membrane, and water containing the contaminants is flushed down the drain from the “contaminated” side. The advantage of this process is that it significantly reduces salt, most other inorganic material present in the water, and some organic compounds. Used on conjunction with a quality carbon filter, the purity of the treated water approaches that produced by distillation. Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems can typically purify more water per day than distillers and are less expensive to operate and maintain. On the other hand the disadvantages include the fact that RO systems make only a few gallons of treated water a day. Also the systems waste water, with two-four gallons of waste water flushed away for each gallon of filtered water produced. Additionally some pesticides, solvents and organic chemicals are not completely removed by RO. A further point is that RO systems require high maintenance. Pre and post filters and the RO membranes much be changed regularly. 

(4) KDF Filters – use electrochemical oxidation and reduction to eliminate contaminants from water.
These filters use a matrix of zinc/copper alloy, which eliminate contaminants from water by utilizing electrochemical oxidation reduction. This has the ability to remove chlorine, hydrogen sulphide, iron, lead, cadmium, aluminium, mercury, arsenic and other inorganic compounds, kill algae and fungi, control bacterial growth in the filter.

The advantage of KDF filters is that it is the only filter medium that removes contaminants from running hot water, which makes them ideal for use in showers. The filters also change the free chlorine that some people are allergic to, into a form (zinc chloride) that is much easily tolerated. The disadvantages include that fact that by themselves KDF filters do not remove organic compounds or parasitic cysts. Additionally the filters need to be backwashed periodically with hot water to remove insoluble contaminants which wastes many gallons of hot water.

Boiling

In an emergency, this is the best way to purify water that may be unsafe due to the presence of protozoan, parasites or bacteria. The water should be brought to a boil and continue boiling for 3 minutes. The water needs to be kept covered while cooling.

Obvious advantage is that pathogens that may still be lurking in the water will be killed if the water is boiled long enough. Additionally boiling will drive out some of the organic compounds that may be in the water. However as a word of caution, boiling should not be used when toxic metals, chemicals (lead, mercury, asbestos, solvents etc.) or nitrates have contaminated the water. Also boiling may also concentrate any harmful contaminants that do not vaporise as the relatively pure water vapour boils off.

Ultra Violet Light

In this process the water passes through a clear chamber where it is exposed to an ultra violet (UV) light. The UV light effectively destroys bacteria and viruses. However, how well the UV system works depends on the energy dose that the organism absorbs. If the energy dose is not high enough, the organism’s genetic material may only be damaged and not destroyed.

The advantage of using UV lights is that no known toxic or non-toxic by-products are introduced, additionally it leaves no smell or taste in the treated water, and requires very little contact time. Furthermore while it kills all the pathogenic microorganisms it does not affect the minerals in the water.  However UV radiation is not suitable for water in high levels of suspended solids, and it is not effective against non-living contaminants such as lead, asbestos, many organic chemicals, chlorine etc. It also requires electricity to operate. Therefore it is usually only used as a final purification stage on some filtration systems, as part of a water system in conjunction with a carbon filter and or RO system.

Distillation

This is the reverse of boiling. The water is usually boiled in a chamber causing water to vaporize, with the pure steam leaving the non-volatile contaminants behind. The steam moves to a different part of the unit and is cooled until it condenses back into liquid water. The resulting distillates drip into the storage container. Salts, sediment, metals etc. that won’t boil or evaporate remains in the distiller and removed. A vapour trap or carbon filter is usually used with a distiller to ensure the more complete removal of contaminants. The obvious advantage of this system is that a good distillation unit produces very pure water, and it also removes pathogens in the water, mostly by killing and leaving them behind when the water evaporates. A countertop distillation unit is an expensive home water treatment method. It is not very efficient as it takes time to purify the water, and electricity is being consumed continuously. The boiler also needs to be cleaned regularly in addition to the condensation compartment and storage tanks.

Ozonation   

The formation of oxygen into ozone occurs with the use of energy. This process is carried out by an electric discharge field as in the CD (corona discharge of lightening) type ozone generators or by UV radiation as in UV type ozone generators.
Ozone is a naturally occurring component of fresh air, and is produced by the UV rays of the sun reacting with the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Ozone is a very reactive and unstable gas with a short half-life before it reverts back to oxygen. It is the most powerful and rapid acting oxidizer man can produce, and will oxidize all bacteria, mold and yeast spores, organic material and viruses given sufficient exposure. The main advantage of ozone is as a primary disinfectant that effectively kills biological contaminants, as well as oxidizes and precipitates iron, sulphur and manganese so they can be filtered out. Additionally Ozone breaks downs many organic chemicals including those that cause odour and taste problems, and itself has no taste or odour. The main disadvantage of ozone treatment is that it can create undesirable by-products which may be harmful to health if they are not controlled such as formaldehyde and bromate. In addition ozone is not effective in removing dissolved minerals and salts, and the effectiveness of the process is based on a good mix of ozone with water, ozone does not dissolve particularly well. Again it needs to be a component of a water treatment system, rather than a stand -alone treatment on its own.

So what’s the answer?   

There is a new technology that offers a remarkable solution to the global water crisis. This technology has been developed and now in use in air water generators (AWGs) also known as atmospheric water generators. This technology converts the water in the air into portable water. In other words it can produce water out of thin air.

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