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Contaminated water can come from all kinds of environmental and industrial pollution. In order for people to drink water without getting sick from the impurities, some sort of water filtration method or water purification system is needed. Water filtration used to be the only method available for cleaning water, but as time progressed we were able to figure out different ways to purify the water even more, making it safer to drink.
The two different types of water filtration methods are boiling and chemical. Boiling water is often used to kill microorganisms. It takes about three minutes of boiling water to kill most bacteria; however, that doesn't always kill all of it. Third World countries, where running water is not prevalent, need to boil their water every day just to have water available for drinking and cooking.
Particles may separate from the water and be left behind after boiling. These particles need to be sifted out by using a piece of cloth. While boiling water for three minutes or longer will make the water mostly safe to drink, it does not get rid of chemical pollutants if they are present. Boiling water will not get rid of a bad taste either.
The two types of chemical filtration methods are iodine and chlorine. Both of these chemicals are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. Iodine can kill bacteria, viruses and protozoa, but it takes longer to purify the water. Iodine is used generally as a short-term treatment. It is not recommended for women who are pregnant or people who have thyroid conditions.
Mixing chlorine with water causes the dirt and debris to separate from the water. The dirt and debris then fall to the bottom, making the water clearer. If chlorination is not done properly, it can cause sickness, internal organ damage and death. It is considered highly poisonous if too much is used.
Water purification systems can be more expensive but are safer to use. These systems involve using activated carbon and reverse osmosis in conjunction with one another. They use filters to filter out particles in the water. Pores in the filters must be very small to block the particles from going through. Filtering elements in water purification systems can be made of glass fiber, ceramic and hard-block carbon.
Carbon eliminates poor taste, odors, pollutants and reduces chemical levels in the water. Carbon alone is generally not effective on eliminating particles or microorganisms, so it is often used in conjunction with reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis removes impurities such as asbestos, lead, radium or other toxic metals. Both methods used together tend to purify the water the best.
Most well water and tap water throughout the world contains impurities from environmental and industrial pollution. Lakes and rivers include contaminates as well. To benefit from the best quality of water, for health reasons and taste, people often install a good water purification system in their home.
@browncoat - I think portable UV filters are your best bet in this situation. They are pretty cheap to buy, compared with water purification tablets, and easy to use. You just stick them into the bottle and turn them on.
They don't clear out particles, but you can just use a piece of cloth for that.
It will probably still not taste awesome though. Using a water purification filter at home produces the nicest tasting water.
You can get special straws or drinking bottles now that will filter water before it reaches your mouth. Apparently they are really difficult to use though, because it takes quite a lot of force to get the water through the filter. I imagine if you are traveling in an area where you would need equipment like this, you could always use them as a portable filter overnight. Fill the bottles and then let them drip water into different (sterilized) container that could be used as your drinking bottle the next day.