How is Drinking Water Filtered?


We don't always think about the water we drink. Somehow we just taking healthy hydration for granted, but we all know we shouldn't. It is one of the great flaws us human things have. It is difficult for us to see thing from a different perspective, which is why unless we are affected first hand, we just assume our drinking water is clean, healthy and free of contaminants impurities. But ask anyone living in India, Southeast  Asia, Latin America or any other place where drinking water isn't always the cleanest

As a child, my family's vacation home in Southern Vermont was a affected by a ruptured heating oil tank, which leaked oil which eventually leeched down into the water table. Because the house drew its water from a nearly well, the tap water began smelling like heating oil, and at one point the water coming from the tap was flammable. Ever since then I have wondered about how water gets into our homes, and how it gets filtered - either naturally or mechanically -  before humans consume it. For municipal water supplies, groundwater passes through layers or rock and sediment en route to an underground river or aquifer. From there, it is pumped out and fed into infrastructure where chlorine (to kill off any remaining bacteria) and Flouride (for oral health) is added. Other homes off the 'water grid' use wells to draw water from aquifers. But the process for bottled water is different. The drinking water you get in a bottle at the store generally come from one of two places; the tap or the ground. If it comes from a tap, it is 'purified' to remove any bacteria or pathogens before it is bottled. It can from underground aquifers, but it is same basic water municipalities take their water from. The second type of bottled water is spring water, and it bottled 'at the source', which means all of the naturally occurring pH and alkalinity from mineral remains mostly intact before it gets to your lips. This makes a big difference when ti comes to taste, and also when it comes to cost. Marketers and bottled water brand like to emphasize the naturally occurring levels of purity and pH in their water, and you can taste the difference in some brands. Lava rock, for example, is an excellent natural filter for artesian spring water, and because it require less purification, all of the naturally occurring minerals remain, which add to its character.

Water coming from high mountain springs taste great because it:

  • It pretty clean to start with and, depending on the mountain, doesn't require chemical purification. It usually starts as snow, and then melts in to water and then seeps into underground creeks and rivers before coming to earth's surface.
  • Is filtered naturally, and therefor is potable with the least amount of mechanical or man-made filtration and purification. This is 'bottled at the source' means higher quality.

Camping supply companies have come up with fancy filtration products for mountaineers who are trekking at high altitudes and can't carry a lot of water because of its weight. But the more distance the water travels, the more the need to chemical purification like iodine tablets. So, the water you drink is filtered either mechanically or chemically or both, depending on where you get it. If you are the outdoor type who likes to hike and camp and take water from the ground, it is always a good idea to carry both types of filtration tools and a water testing kit with you so you don't get sick.

Photo by Frans Ruiter on Unsplash

by Steve Jortsman