Niall’s virtual diary archives – Sunday 8th March 2015

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Sunday 8th March 2015: 4.00am.

This is our new water filter which replaces an Aqua Optima jug (a cheaper variant of a Brita jug) as I personally find our tap water quite unpleasant (though nothing like as bad as in Madrid or Waterloo Canada in the summer when the reservoirs were low). That our tap water should not be beautiful is surprising as the water is pumped from a 60m borehole into the bedrock literally just outside our house, and it comes through Devionian Old Red Sandstone and ought to be as pure as you get, with the only likely risk being nitrates and pesticides from the surrounding agriculture. It is in fact felt to be so pure by the government they only bother chlorinating it, so no fluoride, no de-flocculation (Aluminium), nor anything else is done to it. The government tests it four times a year, and it's not failed in ten years despite that most of the rest of the country has at some point (traditionally E. coli and cryptosporidium were a big problem in Irish municipal water, as they fixed those during the 2000s more recently the problems are lead and trihalomethanes, none of these have ever been a problem for our borehole supply in the past decade). Despite all this, I find the water to be as chlorinated as a swimming pool (despite the government testing claiming it to be low) and even if you stand it to let the chlorine boil off, I find it still tastes brackish and stale. In short, I find it unpleasant any way you look at it and it bothers me enough to spend money on fixing it.

The Aqua Optima filter we had this past year comes with 12 months of filters from Amazon for £20, and as such is excellent bang for the buck. It's a granulated activated carbon and ion exchange medium, and can remove up to 80% of stuff including chlorine, some heavy metals and hardness. It noticeably improved the water, but in the end like with all such jugs the water flows too quickly though the medium to really pull out enough of the icky stuff to really render the water palatable. That said, it has done well for the past year. I'd recommend it even though it isn't as good as a Brita filter, but it's half the cost.

The new filter below is in a whole different league however, and is in fact world famous as the filter used by the UN, NGOs and armies around the world to handle microbiologically unsafe water such as from roofs, streams, lakes etc with no need for electricity. It is enormously overkill for our needs, but it's nice to know that our water could be riddled with cholera or typhoid and 99.99% of those are NSF certified to be removed in the output. The ceramic filters are still made by the same company today in England which first commercialised them in 1827, and they consist of a very fine porous ceramic which physically blocks anything larger than half a micrometre from passing through.

As you will see below, the filter consists of two stainless steel chambers, or basically two pots one atop the other. The ceramic filters are the four white things and they simply screw into the bottom of the top pot with rubber washers to make them watertight. Every night you fill the top pot and it'll spend the next four to five hours very slowly dripping into the bottom pot which has a tap. The whole thing contains ten litres, and so far has been about enough for a day of household water usage including cooking.

The model of filter I bought below are the Doulton Super Sterasyl's which cost about €30 each. These have an additional activated carbon core inside the ceramic, and because filtration flow is less a litre per hour, the activated carbon gets plenty of time to work on the water. The result is (I summarise from a number of sources of lab results):

* > 95% reduction of Chlorine and Mercury and polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

* > 85% reduction of all the most commonly used herbicides and pesticides (lindane, heptachlor, dieldrin, DDT, aroclor, atrazine, simzine).

* > 50% reduction of phenols and trihalomethanes.

* > 35% of Uranium.

* > 20% of Copper, Arsenic, Lead.

* > 10% of Cadmium and Cesium.

* Negligible effect on Aluminium or Strontium or Fluoride or Salt.

If you need to filter well water which might have lots of heavy metals, they have a model of filter (the ATC) with an additional ion exchange resin which captures > 95% of metals, but also substantially softens the water by replacing the metal and calcium ions with sodium and potassium ones. These also cost quite a bit more, and definitely aren't needed in our case. Moreover, I wanted to preserve the hardness of our water as it ought to make the water taste much nicer, albeit at the cost of furring up our kettle and coffee maker.

So, is a €160 water filter worth it compared to a €30 Aqua Optima jug? Personally speaking, I find the difference enormous. The water from this filter is slightly better than typical bottled water (a bit fresher, crisper) but not as good as water coming straight from a spring, like bottled water this is a bit flat. This isn't surprising, as a lot of bottled water is just filtered tap water using the exact method I'm using, perhaps even using filters by the same company (they are one of the world's largest suppliers of industrial ceramic water filters, in fact if you have under counter or all home water filtering, the chances are good it's a rebranded Doulton filter). So on the water quality, this is excellent, and we as a family (including Clara) have noticeably increased our drinking of water as now it's tasty. Indeed, just whilst writing this I have drunk three large glasses of it, the only downside really is the constant need to visit the toilet :)

The other test will be longevity of the filter i.e. running costs. The survivalist forums I trawled for info on water filters love these filters, specifically the Doulton ceramics instead of any other manufacturer like Berkey or Pur (note that Berkey's white filters are actually Doulton). Apparently they clean easily with a toothbrush, are extremely durable, and if fed unchlorinated water a single set easily lasts ten years. They also don't need priming, reverse pumping, pressure cleaning or other maintenance hard to do after society has collapsed, plus everyone mentioned how the water output tasted nice and not metallic like say the Berkey Black filter which filters out a lot more stuff little of which is ever found in running surface water, but costs a fortune and requires a lot of regular maintenance. Even the Czech and Swiss survivalists (for some reason in Europe that's where our survivalists mostly live) love Doulton according to Google Translate of their forums, and in fact I bought this filter from a Dutch online vendor who mainly supplies European survivalists (his price was much better than anyone in the UK, plus he was priced in Euros, which auto cuts 3% of exchange fees you pay when purchasing in Sterling).

We're coming to the end of our purchasing spree now - as you may have noticed, we've bought a lot of durable goods since Christmas all sensible stuff like a television, a freezer and a vacuum cleaner. This is because the tax year ended for us and we ended up paying €6k to the government in taxes having budgeted for slightly more, and we both received a small windfall thanks to the taxes and accounts falling out that way, a quarter of which has gone on durable goods, a quarter on bills like heating oil and the remainder is going to get banked, probably in prize bonds as bank accounts are paying less than inflation. My contract with Maidsafe ends later this month, if they should not renew for another six months then I'll be back to the unemployment line, so keeping a cash reserve is always wise in this line of work. That said, I think end of contract vacation will probably be in Donegal next month for a few days. Let's hope we get the weather!
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