Home Water Distillers

Here are short reviews of three home water distillers that were available to consumers in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

| January/February 1980

The use of chlorine disinfectant in water treatment plants has—since the turn of the century—guaranteed that most Americans who are served by municipal water supplies don't have to worry about taking in disease-causing bacteria when they drink a glass of H20. Furthermore, folks in this nation who count on wells or springs for drinking water are usually careful to have the supply checked-on a regular basis-for potability. Indeed, as recently as a decade ago it was "common knowledge" that the water consumed by the majority of U.S. citizens was the best in the world!

Unfortunately, recent studies have indicated that there's far more to water quality than meets the eyes or nose: Sterility, as we are now discovering, is not the same as purity. For example, the heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides in this country has caused a number of toxic chemicals to enter our ground water and seep into both public and private water supplies. What's more, city dwellers face the additional hazards posed by trihalomethanes . . . a family of sometimes toxic chemicals produced by reactions between the chlorine used in water sterilization programs and normally harmless organic matter. Scientists are just beginning to understand the seriousness of the threat presented by such noxious substances.

It's not surprising, then, that many households are choosing to treat their own drinking water . . . not only to remove the foul odors and tastes that we've all noticed from time to time, but also in an attempt to extract any dangerous chemicals which might be present.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS will be describing some of the available approaches to home water treatment. As you'd imagine, such point-of-use devices vary considerably in both design and efficiency ... and have only recently been scheduled to undergo testing by the Environmental Protection Agency (whose recently passed regulations on trihalomethane levels reflect the EPA's concern over the spread, in drinking water supplies, of potentially cancer-causing compounds). We're going to begin by taking a look at what could be the most effective group of such devices: home water distillers.

Bubble, Bubble

Distillation—as many of you already know—is the separation of one liquid from another liquid (or from a solid) by way of vaporization and condensation. In the process, boiling water vaporizes ... leaving behind most of the solids that it previously contained. And, of course, the heated fluid will kill any water-based bacteria.

Even the most rudimentary still can accomplish sterilization and the separation of liquids and solids. Therefore the challenge in distiller design involves the removal of volatiles ... chemicals which vaporize with the water and that will, if allowed to, condense in the distillate in a highly concentrated form! (Trihalomethanes, for example, can—if present in water that's run through a poorly operating still—show up in the finished product at ten times the concentration that they made up before distilling!)

1/5/2008 3:40:21 PM


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