Water Disinfection Methods

Water disinfection methods describe a large variety of cases and methods, some relevant to large scale drinking water or wastewater treatment plants, others relevant for personal water use in contaminated or uncertain environments and some methods are meant for swimming pool disinfection. In general, water disinfection methods aim to eliminate and remove harmful contaminants from the water so it is suitable for the specific use its intended for.

Personal water disinfection methods

These are mainly relevant for people travelling to developing countries where water quality is poor, it’s polluted or its safety is uncertain. The main water disinfection methods used in these cases are water boiling, iodine tablets or tincture and portable water filters using activated carbon. Read more about water treatment methods.

Domestic water disinfection methods

Sometimes the general water supply from the local water company gets contaminated and the residents are advised to use water disinfection methods before drinking the water. In other cases a household’s water supply might be permanently in poor quality and needs disinfection.

Common domestic water disinfection methods are:

  • Boiling: the simplest method, it kills many contaminants.
  • Ceramic filters: special filters with very small micron penetration surface, stops most pollutans.
  • Chlorination: in tablets or other soluble solutions
  • Chemical compounds: compounds containing chlorine with other chemicals.

Ultra violet light disinfection

The UV light is an effective and clean water disinfection method, it inactivates cysts and other harmful contaminants. UV light as a disinfection method is non residual so is actually doesn’t leave any disinfectant in the water – can be an advantage or a disadvantage.

Disinfection using Chlorine

This is part of the water disinfection methods utilizing chemicals, but it is so common that it deserves a category of its own. Chlorine is a dangerous gas that is a very powerful oxidant; this oxidizing ability is what makes it so effective in terms of water disinfection methods. The actual use of Chlorine is usually as a compound with other chemicals or minerals that only allow the gas to release when it is in the water. It’s used a lot for drinking water treatment and disinfection, for swimming pools and other purification / disinfection methods.

Chlorine kills bacteria but does not eliminate certain cysts and other chemicals. Other water disinfection methods based on Chlorine or similar products are Chlorine dioxide water disinfection and Chlormine disinfection (a weaker disinfectant than free Chlorine but does not produce carcinogenic THM or HAA).

Ozone water disinfection

water disinfection methods also include the use of Ozone (O3), this is a very unstable molecule which is a powerful oxidant that’s toxic for organisms living in water. Ozone offers a very wide spectrum disinfection ability, the Ozone must be produced on site using oxygen and a UV light normally. Ozone disinfectant produces less hazardous by products that Chlorine does (THMs and HAAs). It’s mainly used in Europe for drinking water treatment plants.

Additional Methods

Other water disinfection methods use Hydrogen peroxide, ehich is similar in operation to Ozone, passing the water through an activated carbon (charcoal) filter and a new development that’s still in research – water disinfection using solar disinfected water.

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