Purifying water is one of our most valuable activities. Especially in an era of high-pollution levels, deteriorating architecture and concerns about acid rain and industrial pollution, it makes sense to safeguard that one part of our diet that’s vital for us: H2O.
Around the world, water purification techniques are used every day to make water that could otherwise poison or kill safe. Of course, we’ve all heard of water purification tablets, which work miracles in many underprivileged parts of the world and disaster spots. However, it’s hardly practicable to consider them an option for the everyday treatment of your home water supply.
Okay then—what about boiling water? We’re often told that that’s the safest thing to do, especially if we’re visiting some part of the world where the water supply is questionable. So, you pour the questionable water into a pot and boil it, or use a kettle. A few minutes of bubbling seems like a guarantee—you’re killing germs, all right. But have a closer look—read on….
How do water filters work?
If you ever boil water to drink, look at what’s at the bottom of the pan: impurities of the granular kind, most likely. Even if they’re nowhere near as toxic as the bacteria you’ve just killed, when it comes time to pouring the water into a flask (presumably to go into the fridge when cooled down), those “salts” at the bottom are going to work their way back into your drinking water.
So, while you may have made your water less harmful, you certainly haven’t succeeded in purifying it! If you were to do this over a period, your health could suffer. Imagine if a natural disaster were to disrupt your water supply, all the bottles in the supermarkets vanished, and the crisis-relief agencies couldn’t get out in time: you’d have to fend for yourself. Where would you turn? A river? A rain barrel? Hunting for a spring? Pretty soon, you’d be right back to where early humans found themselves…
How long could you expect to keep this up? Assuming that you could keep up such a lifestyle, you’d need to use something together with your pot, pan or kettle: you’d need a filter, perhaps even make your own one using a series of rocks, charcoal, sand, cloth, etc. Even crude filters work by allowing the water to pass through a series of materials, such as charcoal, to strain out particles of dirt. Think of a sieve or tea strainer: they’re filters at their most primitive level.
How to filter water properly!
Let’s get back to reality, where we have sophisticated water filtration systems. One of the simpler ways we can see drinking water being filtered is in the filters we use in water-filter jugs, or, if we have one, a filter that’s integrated into our refrigerator (usually attached to an ice-cube maker, too). Such substances as charcoal are very useful in filters.
In the case of a filtration jug, the water might pass through a filter cartridge that makes coconut-based activated carbon work together with an ion exchange resin. These reduce the amounts of contaminants, such as copper, zinc and chlorine taste, which can get through.
Specifically, let’s look at hard water or a hard water filter. Depending on where you live, the water that gets supplied to you may be soft, medium or hard. You can tell soft water because it’s easier to make soap suds with it, and it feels smooth. Harder water comes from higher levels of calcium, magnesium and other elements. The problem with hard water is that it can create scale deposits in your pipes, washing machines and kettles, etc.
Calcium carbonate is especially annoying in this regard—that limescale is why you buy cleaning chemicals to remove. Hard water can create skin problems with soap, as the “curd” it makes can clog pores. If you have the best kind of filtration device—an RO model—the bad news is that the scale formed by this kind of water can make the membrane less effective, reducing the otherwise-excellent quality of what you pour to drink.
The good news is that there’s an easy remedy. Overall, if you want to knock the hardness out of your water supply, look at getting a water softener to run alongside your RO unit. The RO unit will benefit from having less work to do, while the softener will do its job, so you get double the pleasure—great-tasting, softer water.