Scientists tell us that:
- Water covers about 71 percent of the Earth’s surface
- Water makes up 61% of the human body
- An average person will only live 3 days without water
Having a steady source of good clean drinking water is a must. If you don’t believe so, visit a third world country where the water is unsafe to drink and consume a few glassfuls. (I did on a mission trip 15 years ago and spent the next six months with sometimes excruciating stomach pain.)
But you don’t have to travel to the jungle or some other far-away place to need help securing a fresh water source. If you find yourself in an emergency, it’s good to be prepared to treat water scavenged from a creek or stream, or even rainwater from a cistern system to create potable water. You’ll just need a good filter â€¦ be it a whole-home, tabletop or portable unit.
Whole House Units
The traditional whole home water purifier system that uses salt tablets has been around nearly as long as door-to-door salesmen. You know the type, a reservoir and few small cylinders and lots of hoses hiding somewhere in the basement or a hall closet. They were decent for making hard water softer, but still couldn’t eliminate all microbial contaminants.
The “reverse osmosis” systems provide the most pure water possible, free of sediment, minerals and natural or man-made impurities. A five-stage system uses five specialty filters that separate impurities on the â€œinletâ€ side of the system where they are flushed away down a waste drain. Clean water then travels into the home for use.
Good systems also utilize carbon filters to remove additional contaminants, odors and unpleasant taste. Such a system will start at about $400, and can be installed with basic hand tools.
If you’re not looking to build a system into existing plumbing, or you must rely on water carried from an off-site source, or maybe you just want a moveable option for a cabin or camp, then consider a tabletop model.
Companies such as Berkey and Katadyn have taken countertop water purification from a science to a convenience. Models come in stainless steel or safe polyethylene.
The main difference between a built-in reverse osmosis system and a tabletop unit is that the plumbed-in system uses water pressure to assist with filtering. Tabletop/countertop models rely on gravity to force the water from an upper chamber through a series of carbon-impregnated ceramic elements into a lower reservoir.
Tabletop systems filter much more slowly than built-in systems, at a rate of one to three gallons per hour. But the countertop units cost much less than the plumbed-in option. The smaller units’ replaceable filters will last through thousands of gallons of filtering.
In my personal experience, a tabletop unit is great for our hunting cabin, which only sees use a few weekends a year. The drilled well pump failed years ago, so we rely on water from a cistern for most uses, and carry water in jugs or buckets from a neighbor’s hydrant for drinking. Even though that system is used regularly, a tabletop gravity-fed filter can assure any microscopic critters are separated out before we use the water for drinking or cooking.
Portable Potable Water
The most compact and least expensive way to make any water suitable for drinking is with a handheld filter. These compact filters are carried by soldiers, backpackers, and survivalists. Most are not much larger than a store-bought bottle of water, with several models even smaller. The most common types have some form of hand pump to force water through ceramic filters. It can be a lever handle extending down the side, or a knob which actuates a pump from one end of the unit much like a traditional bicycle tire pump worked.
Small filters from companies such as Katadyn or Berkey will cost $70 to $250 depending on the exterior finish and filtration capacity. Most of these pumps will have an exterior suction hose with a particle filter on the end. Just drop the suction hose into a water source and begin pumping. You can purify up to two or three quarts per minute from most water sources.
Filters like these can easily purify enough water to provide for drinking and food preparation for two or three people or more with little effort. While it’s an option for a hunting cabin or remote camp, I’d recommend you keep at least one spare filter on hand. It only makes sense to be prepared.
If you’re on a tighter budget, for $50 or less you can purchase a filter “bottle”, a water bottle with a carbon or ceramic filter built into the straw. Simply fill the bottle like normal from any water source, and when you draw water through the straw it filters out impurities and leaves them behind in the bottle. Manufacturers of these type filters promise up to 99.9 percent separation of drinkable water and impurities. Filter replacements are easily available.
The good news is, regardless of your needs – a personal system for backpacking of survival, tabletop model to purify only drinking water for a rural home or cabin, or a reverse osmosis unit plumbed into your home’s pipes for continual use – fresh water is within easy reach.