Popular methods for purifying water, especially for local private supplies are listed below. In some countries some of these methods are also used for large scale municipal supplies. Particularly important are distillation (de-salination of seawater) and reverse osmosis.
Boiling: Bringing it to its boiling point at 100 °C (212 °F), is the oldest and most effective way since it eliminates most microbes causing intestine related diseases, but it cannot remove chemical toxins or impurities. For human health, complete sterilization of water is not required, since the heat resistant microbes are not intestine affecting. The traditional advice of boiling water for ten minutes is mainly for additional safety, since microbes start getting eliminated at temperatures greater than 60 °C (140 °F). Though the boiling point decreases with increasing altitude, it is not enough to affect the disinfecting process. In areas where the water is “hard” (that is, containing significant dissolved calcium salts), boiling decomposes the bicarbonate ions, resulting in partial precipitation as calcium carbonate. This is the “fur” that builds up on kettle elements, etc., in hard water areas. With the exception of calcium, boiling does not remove solutes of higher boiling point than water and in fact increases their concentration (due to some water being lost as vapour). Boiling does not leave a residual disinfectant in the water. Therefore, water that is boiled and then stored for any length of time may acquire new pathogens.
Granular Activated Carbon filtering: a form of activated carbon with a high surface area, adsorbs many compounds including many toxic compounds. Water passing through activated carbon is commonly used in municipal regions with organic contamination, taste or odors. Many household water filters and fish tanks use activated carbon filters to further purify the water. Household filters for drinking water sometimes contain silver as metallic silver nano particle. If water is held in the carbon block for longer period, microorganisms can grow inside which results in fouling and contamination. Silver nano particles are excellent anti-bacterial material and they can decompose toxic halo-organic compounds such as pesticides into non-toxic organic products.
Distillation involves boiling the water to produce water vapour. The vapour contacts a cool surface where it condenses as a liquid. Because the solutes are not normally vaporised, they remain in the boiling solution. Even distillation does not completely purify water, because of contaminants with similar boiling points and droplets of un-vaporised liquid carried with the steam. However, 99.9% pure water can be obtained by distillation.
Reverse osmosis: Mechanical pressure is applied to an impure solution to force pure water through a semi-permeable membrane. Reverse osmosis is theoretically the most thorough method of large scale water purification available, although perfect semi-permeable membranes are difficult to create. Unless membranes are well-maintained, algae and other life forms can colonise the membranes.
The use of iron in removing arsenic from water. See Arsenic contamination of groundwater.
Direct contact membrane distillation (DCMD). Applicable to desalination. Heated seawater is passed along the surface of a hydrophobic polymer membrane. Evaporated water passes from the hot side through pores in the membrane into a stream of cold pure water on the other side. The difference in vapour pressure between the hot and cold side helps to push water molecules through.
Desalination – is a process by which saline water (generally sea water) is converted to fresh water. The most common desalination processes are distillation and reverse osmosis. Desalination is currently expensive compared to most alternative sources of water, and only a very small fraction of total human use is satisfied by desalination. It is only economically practical for high-valued uses (such as household and industrial uses) in arid areas.
Gas hydrate crystals centrifuge method. If carbon dioxide or other low molecular weight gas is mixed with contaminated water at high pressure and low temperature, gas hydrate crystals will form exothermically. Separation of the crystalline hydrate may be performed by centrifuge or sedimentation and decanting. Water can be released from the hydrate crystals by heating
In Situ Chemical Oxidation, a form of advanced oxidation processes and advanced oxidation technology, is an environmental remediation technique used for soil and/or groundwater remediation to reduce the concentrations of targeted environmental contaminants to acceptable levels. ISCO is accomplished by injecting or otherwise introducing strong chemical oxidizers directly into the contaminated medium (soil or groundwater) to destroy chemical contaminants in place. It can be used to remediate a variety of organic compounds, including some that are resistant to natural degradation
Bioremediation is a technique that uses microorganisms in order to remove or extract certain waste products from a contaminated area. Since 1991 bioremediation has been a suggested tactic to remove impurities from water such as alkanes, perchlorates, and metals. The treatment of ground and surface water, through bioremediation, with respect to perchlorate and chloride compounds, has seen success as perchlorate compounds are highly soluble making it difficult to remove.