Filtering Drinking Water

By , March 8, 2016

About a month ago, in a moment of synchronicity, Michelle clicked on an ad in a homesteading/gardening blog she likes just as I admitted we had a problem in the kitchen.

The cylinders in our two water filter pitchers both reached the point where filtration takes too long to be practical.

Our current filtering pitchers, working hard to keep up with demand (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Our current filtering pitchers, working hard to keep up with demand (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

We filter all of our drinking water. We started the habit in Juneau, where aging municipal and residential water pipes led to health concerns. When we moved to the homestead, beyond municipal water treatment and delivery, we continued the practice. Our water catchment system seems quite safe, but we take steps to avoid giardia and other possible contaminants.
We’ve used PUR® water filtration here for more than 10 years. The pitchers use charcoal filter cylinders that run around $10 each. They’re purported to last up to two months. In practice, we average one month, often less, on a cartridge, depending on the season and the condition of the water. In wet weather, the water runs exceptionally clear, and a filter can last for several months before slowing down.

This happens less often these days. Apparently, other users have noticed the same problem, as the packaging now includes instructions for revitalizing filters if they clog up too early.

If a filter slows down too soon, we replace it with a new one and set it aside to dry. When we next need a filter, we shake the dried filter hard, then reinstall it. We often get up to a month further service from a filter treated this way.

This slow filtering causes problems in a household that can easily use 10 or more of these pitchers’ worth of water in a single day. We need the filters to process quickly to keep up with our usage.

At best, we’re spending about $200 annually to improve our water quality. It might be much more.

As I cussed and fussed over balky filters, Michelle clicked the ad and learned about British Berkfield®, a filtering manufacturer that produces the Berkey line of filtration systems. She mentioned it to me later, asking that I research the system and other urn-based filters as a possible replacement for ours.

I did just that, and discovered some interesting information.

At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website, I learned that labelling on filters can be misleading. We adopted PUR® specifically because it claims to filter giardia cysts. However, the CDC page on water filtration gives examples of packaging and advertisement wording that differentiate those products that might filter giardia, and those that have been certified to do so.

I immediately recognized PUR’s wording in the “might” column. I went immediately to the PUR Website, and found that they’d considerably dialed back their filtration claims.

All of this happened within a day or two of publishing my post on water security (see Clean Drinking Water: Misplaced Trust). Safe water had become a hot topic in our household just then.

The coincidence of our latest set of filters petering out just as we pondered water safety, and Michelle giving in to a moment of idle curiosity led to further research, and an eventual decision to improve our situation, as I’ll address in the next post.

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