Some of the more interesting things we have learned in the water business over the last 25 years have to do with where "reality" and "promotion" diverge when it comes to solving difficult, or even moderate drinking water problems.

In North Africa a few years ago, we found that hospitals were in desperate need of pure water for invasive and non-invasive medical procedures. The "big guns" in the industry came strutting in and told the medical people that reverse osmosis could solve all their problems. Months later and still without any semblance of pure water, the reverse osmosis people crept back home, humbled by the inability of their equipments to perform in a difficult, bad water environment.

Closer to home, prior to the Loma Prieta earthquake, scores of "water professionals" were going door to door selling so-called water "purifiers" and filters up and down the Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

These were systems which the promoters said could "take care of any and all drinking water needs". After the earthquake it was a totally different story. Before safe drinking water supplies were restored, only steam distillation systems were capable of dealing with the bacteria infested water supplies up and down the coast.

The filter and reverse osmosis people had somehow suddenly disappeared and when asked about the outrageous claims they had made earlier for their systems to "purify" water, they didn't have an answer.

Somehow, when reality overtook promotion, the system had little or no value. Why was the individual buying a water system? Just to look at it? Certainly not. They bought it so that they could have safe drinking water on a day to day basis---as well as during those times when the water might contain contaminants which made it unsafe.

After all, why spend hundreds of dollars for an insurance policy which protects you day in and day out---except for the time when you have an accident?

In fact, after the earthquake, the national Water Quality Association, whose membership is dominated by filter and reverse osmosis manufacturers, announced that only steam distillation systems were to be considered reliable systems with which to purify contaminated drinking water such as was being experienced in the earthquake area.

Which brings us to the point at hand. If the real purpose in purchasing any type of home water system is to ensure that dangerous contaminants which might appear in the source water do not go down your throat, then the system must truly be capable of removing dangerous chemicals and impurities when the chips are down---and not just implying with cleverly chosen pictures and words that they can do the job.

I am reminded of a brochure for a nationally-known brand of reverse osmosis system which a customer brought into my store last Saturday. The lady wanted a good, reliable water purifier for her family but became concerned when she read the "caveat" on the reverse osmosis brochure which stated: " not use this drinking water system where the source water is unsafe or with water of unknown quality."

Incredible? No, just the small print at the bottom of the brochure---print that the manufacturer is obligated by state law to put there---but hopes you never read.

After deciding that she was unwilling to part with $700 plus for a reverse osmosis system which the manufacturer themselves had indicated was inadequate for treatment of water of unknown quality, she purchased a steam distillation system.

Steam distillation does not have to insert those caveats which basically cut the reliability and utility of reverse osmosis and simple carbon filtration systems to virtually nil under difficult water conditions.

It's sad to see how easily a high-pressure salesperson who goes door to door or sells over a counter can mislead a consumer into believing that a simple, low-technology filtration system is a smart insurance policy against potentially dangerous chemicals and biological impurities in drinking water.

Ironically, as this article went to press in Bay Area papers last fall, the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin has no safe drinking water due to cryptosporidium parasites in it's water supply. Hundreds of people have received medical treatment and individuals who have immune systems problems are warned that the biological problem could be fatal.

Filtration systems and reverse osmosis technology failed to solve this problem---only steam distillation or boiling water produced drinkable water.

Again, thousands of Milwaukee homeowners who have purchased simple carbon filters or under sink reverse osmosis systems see their investments as useless. A sad story but very true in more and more American cities.

The cryptosporidium problem is spreading. In an earlier article we noted that this parasite was responsible for 15,000 people in one southern city being taken ill. Like Giardia, this parasite which is resistant to standard water treatment procedures such as chlorine, will find it's way into scores of additional municipal water supplies.

The smart customer decides, as he does with a home insurance policy, that if he has a fire, that's when he needs to be sure that his policy or water purifier must work for him and his family.

If you want a water purifier to work only on the "good days" when the incoming water is fine and dandy, and let you down on the days when you might just need it to protect you against a dangerous chemical spill or biological threat to your water---buy a filter or reverse osmosis system. There's certainly plenty of them out there to sink plenty of your money into.

On the other hand, if you want to have your water system work on the good days as well as the bad ones---and to be there when the chips are down and you need protection, get a steam distillation system.

The newest technology in water distillation systems now cost much less than most reverse osmosis systems and about as much as a simple, under-sink taste and odor filtration system you can buy at the hardware store.












































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