Water on the Brain

It’s only a mild case and mercifully it isn’t the hydrocephalic form. For the last few months I’ve noticed a plethora of products all geared towards treating water so as to render it potable for travelers and people who engage in outdoor activities where extended periods of time may be spent exposed to the elements or in places where local infrastructure may leave much to be desired for basic living necessities, some that many of us all too often take for granted in our usual day to day existence. The individuals who will find utilizing this particular function of utmost importance not to mention critical to one’s personal health and well being would be campers, survivalists, and other “out of doors” types including many persons involved in a variety of military types of training and pursuits.

What also caught my attention was the sheer number of and variety of methods for the filtering and purifying of water. They’re comprised of everything from chemical formulations in tablet form to sophisticated yet compact filtration systems and now small portable ultraviolet light devices that claim to kill even the smallest microbial threat. Driving the vast number of styles and types of devices are the many varying levels with which they effectively render water safe to ingest. There are caveats and cautions, to be considered because with concepts like “purity” or “safety” up for debate there is no room for compromise when most at stake is personal wellbeing.

Simply filtering particulate matter is going to be inadequate when it comes to individual or group health concerns and requirements. The complete elimination of elements such as, bacteria’s, viruses and one celled organisms and if possible chemical pollutants is what’s going to be mandatory. One fact is indisputable, there are a multitude of bad critters large and small that love water and not only know how to swim, but are very adept at doing so and find the human body a perfect home in which to feed, reproduce and carry out all sorts of other nefarious business much of which will be detrimental to individual harmony and are happy to guarantee putting a damper on an enjoyable day.

Another universal truth became prominently evident during my product perusals that is, a given products effectiveness also seems to be directly proportionate to its price tag. Do you want to be absolutely positively sure that the water you’re going to drink no matter how foul the source is will not make you sick and or kill you with Cholera?
Obviously there are the old standbys for rendering water safe to drink; boiling it and adding Iodine or chlorinating it are the main techniques that spring to mind. Unfortunately one cannot always conveniently boil water, and even when one is able, it takes time and an energy source to do so, not to mention the time it takes letting it cool down unless you’re drinking coffee or tea. Some say it doesn’t taste great either. I’ve never personally experienced it but I hear Iodine treated water isn’t exactly the tastiest, and we’ve all swallowed water from a swimming pool. Alas I suppose if your situation is dire enough and this is the method you’re resorting too taste might be the least of your concerns.

Let me make this very clear there is a huge difference between filtration and purification not only mechanically but also economically when one is purchasing a device that allows this process to occur. In general logic would dictate that given the potential consequences of drinking poor quality water laden with a myriad of contaminants purified is far more desirable given that some really bad bugs floating around in your cup can be only up to a few microns in size. While a good filter may get something like an Amoeba or Giardia, it more than likely won’t touch Hepatitis or Cholera or Cryptosporidium. Good portable purification systems usually use some sort of ceramic system that is effective up to a certain amount of fluid and then needs replacement at what can be not insignificant in cost. Another more measurable upside is that they also tend to have the capability to treat more water than a lesser able device in a shorter period of time. High end systems can cost in the hundreds of dollars, but try to think of it as a wise investment this really isn’t the issue to skimp on when you consider the cost of potential illness and the subsequent doctors visits or a hospital stay.

There are also a few ultraviolet light units that have come on the market, and while I cannot vouch for their effectiveness they tend to only treat smaller amounts of water, they also require some power source too whether it be battery or electrical, and they aren’t cheap either as compared to some powdered and tablet preparations that are also on the commercial market. If you read the product claims they might very well be an incredibly high tech alternative and I’d love to hear some personal testimonials as to their efficacy.

I have to be honest and up front here; I personally don’t own or use any of these devices or methods I’m describing here. For one I don’t camp near as much or for as long as I used to, and while I still get around the developing world a good bit, I’m either very careful, immune/lucky, or rely on bottled potables for the vast majority of my thirst quenching needs. I was just in the Dominican Republic a few weeks back, and while it was a fairly nice resort we stayed at, the tap in the room’s bathroom advised guests from drinking from it. Of course I in all my clueless glory failed to notice this for the first three days of the stay. I was terrified when I noticed this advisory that my companion had also not noticed the warning. Fortunately she was far more cognizant than I had been and had not imbibed. My luck and gut held out and I suffered no ill effects due to this transgression, and enough time has gone by that an infestation of Giardia has been ruled out, so once again, neither drinking the local water nor ingesting the ice has done me in…yet.

All these methods and products have their variables, pros, cons and limitations so only you can judge what if any will fill your needs and requirements or fit your budget. Unless you’re the model of diligence or have the stomach of a goat or plan to only rely upon retroactive treatment with antibiotics it stands to reason that arming ones self with one or more of these types of systems would be a worthwhile investment in the long run…..no pun intended wokka wokka.


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