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Choosing a Water Filtration System
A water filtration system is one of the most overlooked pieces of outdoor equipment
Often thought of as a luxury instead of a necessity, most folks who venture out hiking or exploring never give a thought to what might happen if their water supply should for some unforeseen reasons become exhausted either through an error in planning or conditions beyond their control.
You can go days without food - but not water.
If you can locate a source of water it can be treated and used.
What might have been a tragedy turns into a simple activity nothing more.
Even if you have an obtainable source of water it more than likely will contain parasites such as Giardia, Cryptosporidium and Bacteria such as E. coli. And also animal waste.
Lets take a look at some of the more common stuff found in our waters.
Protozoa: Are single celled parasites that are mostly responsible for our Water related illnesses. They can only divide within a host organism. Malaria is caused by protozoa.
Giardia: A genus of protozoa that infect the gastrointestinal tract. Giardia have a large sucking disk which permits them to adhere to the intestinal lining. The species that infects humans (and causes diarrhea) is Giardia lamblia. Filtration is the only effective removal method as they are resistant to chemical additives such as Iodine.
Cryptosporidium: Another protozoan (waterborne parasites) that cause the disease cryptosporidiosis. One of the species appears to be responsible for most of the illnesses. Symptoms of the disease are vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever usually lasting one to two weeks.
E. coli (Escherichia coli): is a common bacterium that normally inhabits the intestinal tracts of humans and animals, but can cause infection in other parts of the body, especially the urinary tract.
Viruses: These contaminants donít mess around. They are the cause of often fatal diseases such as Polio and Hepatitis.
Water Treatment Methods
Boiling water: This still remains the old standby for most folks (water must boil 1-3 minutes). Although effective your water will still retain all of the imbedded taste and particulates.
Chemical Sterilization: Economical and easy to use. Regardless of which method you choose the tablets & drops donít take up much room in the backpack. Effective for bacteria and most viruses but not as good for protozoan. Taste can be a big drawback with this type of treatment so the majority of people will consider it as a last resort.
Another drawback is the time needed to properly kill the bad stuff, which can be up to an hour or more. There are also health concerns in some individuals because of the iodine used.
Filtration: Probably becoming the preferred method used today, some of the reasons attributing to itís rise in popularity is the capability of being very effective and as a bonus can actually make the water taste as good as bottled water through their use of activated carbon. The technology behind is effectiveness is quite simple. A filter block (whose material composition can vary) is manufactured to only let objects of a certain size pass through. The smaller the opening the more contaminants it can stop.
An opening of 1 micron will eliminate most protozoans.
A 0.2 micron opening will trap bacteria and parasites.
Some of features to look for in your filter:
An intake hose that will be long enough so that you can comfortably sit down next to your water source without having to kneel or bend over.
Make sure the handle is sturdy; this is the part of the filter that really gets a workout. There are different styles of handles available and the one you choose should be comfortable.
A prefilter that will keep out most of the large particles
Take a look at the amount of filtered water it can make in a given time period (usually a minute) if all other features are relatively the same, go with the one that has the most throughput per minute.
Here are some tips to keep your filter running at its best.
Follow the manufactures instruction for cleaning and maintenance of your water filter.
If your water is laden with a lot of organic matter you can pour it through a piece of cloth and into a container youíve rinsed out before you start to filter it.
If this is not possible and youíre pumping the filter directly from the water source be sure you keep it off the bottom either with a float or sit it on top of some rocks if available, donít lay it in the silt.
Once youíre done make sure the unit is empty and allow the hoses and filter to dry before packing away if possible. Packing the hose that carried the unfiltered water in a separate sleeve or bag away from the rest of the unit is a good idea also.
Once home clean the unit according to the manufactures instructions.
If youíre not going to use the water filter for a while rinse the filter and unit in a weak solution of chlorine and water (unless the manufactures instructions prohibit this)
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