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Water Purification

Water Purification Remote Situations

Is this water safe to drink?

Those undertaking wilderness and adventure activities, such as hill-walking, mountaineering, wilderness camping and bothying have a trade of on what to carry including sufficient water for their activity day.

Over the years while leading people in the outdoors and teaching courses in wilderness skills, I’ve found that most uncertainty about how to treat water comes from a lack of clarity over what the problems might be. This is due, at least in part, to the marketing surrounding the many water-purification products aimed at the outdoors user. What if you could carry a water purify that fits in to the palm of your hand? What to know more on this then continue to read here….

The better your understanding of the potential contaminants, the better equipped you will be in determining the solution. Don’t be baffled by scientific terminology or over-technical marketing hype.

There are five categories of contaminants you may need to eliminate from fresh water to make it safe to drink or to use in a wilderness first aid situation:

  • Turbidity
  • Parasites
  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Chemical pollutants

Wilderness Water Purification: Useful Details

Turbidity: Turbid water is muddy, thick or cloudy. This can be due to sand, mud, silt or other suspended particulate matter such as decomposing organic material. Removal of turbidity is important. Even if there are no waterborne diseases present, turbid water can irritate your digestive system. In addition, turbidity can reduce the effectiveness of chemical treatments.

Parasites are organisms that live in or on another organism, benefiting at the expense of the other. Waterborne parasites can be either multi-cellular organisms such as worms or simple, single-cell organisms such as protozoa.

Protozoa are colourless microbial organisms, capable of motion. They obtain food by ingesting other organisms or organic particles. Protozoa lack the cell walls of algae and fungi and in this respect resemble animal cells. Many protozoa are free-living microorganisms, but several cause disease in humans and other animals. Protozoa are typically 0.01-0.05mm in diameter. Examples include Cryptosporidium and Giardia.

Bacteria are a large group of single-cell organisms, some of which cause disease, between them producing a wide range of infections, some of them potentially lethal. Bacteria are widely distributed in soil, water, air, and on, or in, the tissues of plants or animals. Bacteria were first observed in the 17th century and first definitely implicated in a disease (anthrax) in 1876. Typically a few micrometers across (micrometer or ‘micron’ is one millionth of a metre), bacteria are much smaller than protozoa. Examples of diseases caused by bacteria include Typhoid fever.

Viruses are not cells. Viruses lack many of the attributes of cells. A single virus particle is a static structure, quite stable, and unable to change or replace its parts. Only when it is associated with a cell does a virus acquire a key attribute of a living system, reproduction. Many viruses cause disease in the organisms they infect. While protozoa are measured in terms of thousandths of a metre and bacteria are measured in millions of a metre, viruses are measured in terms of billions of a metre (nano). Many causes of ‘traveller’s diarrhoea’ are considered the result of infection by waterborne viruses. More serious diseases such as Hepatitis A and Polio have long been known to result from faecal contamination of water.

Chemical pollutants can range from pesticides to heavy metals. Chemical pollution in wilderness areas and UK national parks are often associated with nearby mining, forestry and agriculture and tourism.

Other Terminology

A pathogenic organism is any organism that causes disease. That is, as far as waterborne disease is concerned, could be protozoa, bacteria or virus.

Some microorganisms (such as Giardia lamblia) can form cysts, which allow the organism to live without food, w

ater or oxygen for a period of time. The cyst protects the organism from harsh conditions, allowing it to be much more resistant to drying, heat, chemicals, mechanical disturbance such as crushing or vibration, UV and ionizing radiation than the unprotected organism. For parasitic species, the cyst will also enable it to survive outside of the host.

We use the palm sized CarePlus water purification system to purify both drinking water and water for cleaning wounds and treating burns when leading expeditions and trekking. A highly cost effective system that will last a life time of water purification. Read more…