Water is and has always been the most crucial part of life. Humans can stay healthy only if they are adequately hydrated. That's why it is always necessary to have a supply of clean drinking water available.
Although it is difficult to imagine a place without clean water to drink, there are unfortunately many areas around the world that don't have access to drinkable water. Sometimes, even when drinking water is available, there are a few conditions that might make it unsafe to drink.
It's essential to learn about how water is usually treated before it is available to us to drink. You should know whether the water provided to you is even safe to drink. Alternatively, it’s also wise to learn how to purify water by yourself.
There could be a few reasons why you’d need to purify water yourself, all depending on your circumstances and the conditions in your area.
Let’s explore the water treatment process, purification methods, and some of the reasons that could possibly lead to the need for purifying.
Before we do that, however, it let’s check some important background information about water treatment.
What is water treatment: A brief history
Water treatments date far back, we can say almost back to 2000 BC. That’s amazing considering there wasn’t much technology back then. There was still, however, the need for drinking water.
People opted for treatment methods mainly to improve the taste or overall quality of water. Some standard techniques included filtering, boiling, sunlight exposure, or straining. In the late 1600s, the concept of desalination began to rise.
Desalination allowed treating seawater to make it drinkable. Short after, the microscope came into the picture, which allowed scientists to observe microorganisms in the water.
So, water treatment and purification aren’t fairly new concepts. Although we are still trying to refine water treatment methods, we have come a long way regarding improving the quality of water.
Why would we need to purify water?
A few situations might arise which require you to purify water before drinking. Here are examples of some situations.
Disruption in municipal water supply
Sometimes, natural disasters can disrupt or contaminate the supply of municipal water. Natural disaster events can also damage private water treatment systems.
Some examples of these natural disasters are tornadoes, flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. It is essential to keep a stock of necessary supplies for purifying water in case of these events.
Municipal water not available for drinking
In some areas, there are no sources of municipal drinking water. In these cases, people might make do with private wells or catchment tanks.
When you get water from these sources, it is necessary to purify it before drinking. The water is usually purified in large amounts using a treatment system.
In this case, you should know how to purify water if these systems stop working.
Going on long outdoor adventures
While traveling, trips, camping, long backpacking trips, etc., you should know how to purify water from natural sources. Even if you are equipped with enough water, you should be ready for any type of situation.
For whatever reason, your trip might be extended, or you can run out of water. Being able to purify water can prove to be a useful skill in these types of situations.
Water purification methods
There are a few ways for purifying water, and the type of method you choose depends on the resources you have available and the cause of contamination. We’ll discuss five straightforward methods that you can adopt by having the proper equipment and awareness.
Boiling is perhaps the most straightforward method, and it removes parasites, bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that can be harmful to humans. Although this method destroys most of these organisms, it does not get rid of salts, chemicals, dirt, or heavy metals.
Boiling needs to be combined with other purification methods to get better results.
You need to boil water rapidly for about ten minutes to get rid of the harmful organisms. You should remember that at higher altitude areas, you might need to boil water longer.
The filtration method uses modern filtering devices to remove impurities. These filters are good at removing particulate matter and bacteria that are larger. When buying a filter, consider getting one that uses silver to kill smaller organisms that can pass through the filter.
Often, this method is used with boiling to get more effective water purification.
Distillation is one of the most effective methods, and it uses principles of evaporation and condensation to collect purified water droplets.
This method gets rid of salts, heavy particles, microorganisms and pathogens and can even be used to make seawater drinkable. You just need to have the proper supplies and set-up for carrying out distillation.
Exposure to ultraviolet light can also get rid of harmful organisms in the water. Some devices provide ultraviolet exposure, and they work within seconds.
You can also use natural sunlight to carry out this method; however, it'll be much slower than a device.
There are water purification tablets for the chemical treatment of water. A few types of chemical treatment options exist, such as iodine or bleach. Iodine works quickly; however, it can leave an unpleasant taste and is not suitable for everyone.
The water treatment process
There are five significant steps in the water treatment process. We'll provide a brief overview of each one.
In this step, chlorine dioxide is added to water as an oxidant, and aluminum sulfate is added as a chemical coagulant. Then the coagulants are combined at the rapid mix unit, and the coagulation process starts.
Chemical coagulation causes fine particles to clump together and form larger particles. These clumps can then be removed later through draining, filtering, skimming, or settling.
The next step involves slow stirring that causes small coagulated particles to turn into floc. This flocculation process causes larger particles to settle, which can then be easily removed by filtration or sedimentation.
In this step, sedimentation removes suspended solids that are heavier than water. This reduces the load on the filter. Solids will move towards the bottom of the container, with more than ninety percent of solids removed during this process.
Then, the clearer water is collected from the surface.
This process includes adding chlorine to the water in order to kill the majority of harmful microorganisms.
Lastly, filtration involves passing water through a bed of coal or sand. Any other granular substance can also be used in this part. Filtration is used to remove impurities that were missed in previous steps.
As we've seen, it's essential to know how water treatment systems work. If you know the conditions of water treatment systems and the quality of water they are providing, you can make informed decisions.
You also need to know some basic methods for purifying water should the need arise. Water treatment facilities can experience disruptions at any time.
Therefore, it’s important that you know the elementary facts about water treatment and purification to keep yourself and your family well-informed, safe, and healthy.