In addition to providing essential drinking water during emergencies, portable point-of-use systems can also help people enjoy the outdoors during camping, hiking or other outside activities where plumbing is not readily available.
Water treatment on the go
Outfitter Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) offers several different water treatment options that can be taken on the road or into the woods.
- Pump-style filters and purifiers
- Gravity-fed filters and purifiers
- Ultraviolet light pen purifiers
- Sip/squeeze bottles with inline filtering straws
- Chemical tablets
- Iodine tablets
These technologies vary in cost, weight, size, ease of use, durability, taste quality and more. Users should choose one based on their needs.
REI notes that while water may look safe, microscopic pathogens can cause severe diarrhea, cramps, vomiting and fever if ingested. When traveling internationally outside of the U.S., travelers must be especially cognizant of waterborne diseases because water quality can vary greatly from country to country. Three common pathogens found in lakes, rivers and streams are:
- Protozoa and cysts
Microfilters are useful for backcountry traveling since they can remove particles down to 0.4 microns in size. Because viruses are small enough to get through these filters, they are suitable for travel in the U.S., where viral contamination risk is low.
“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization provide recommendations for travelers for short-term water treatment in areas where the drinking water is of unreliable quality,” said Water Technology Technical Editor Dr. Joe Cotruvo. “Either or both have recommendations that include use of chlorine bleach, calcium hypochlorite, sodium dichloroisocyanurate, iodine in several forms, flocculation/filtration disinfection, membrane filters, 1-micron carbon block filters and bringing the water to boiling. Many of these methods would also be appropriate for use by residents in those areas.”
Portable POU choices
- LifeStraw personal water filter — Hollow fiber technology removes organisms down to 0.2 microns
- Platypus GravityWorks — Gravity-fed filter system effective against bacteria and protozoa, but not viruses
- SteriPEN — Uses ultraviolet light to treat pathogens including viruses
- MSR SweetWater Microfilter — Pump-style filter system effective against bacteria and protozoa, but not viruses
- Chlorine dioxide tablets — Chemical tablets effective against waterborne microorganisms including viruses and Cryptosporidium
- Berkey Sport Bottle Portable Water Purifier — Effectively treats unpleasant tastes and odors in addition to harmful pathogens such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia
Whatever technology is chosen, users should make sure they are comfortable with the products that help them enjoy clean, drinkable water on the go.