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Water purification - experiences on the road
Sunday, 27 May 2007
Like many of the motorized overland travellers we carry a lot of water around for basic living on the road. Keeping our water tanks topped up with clean filter water for drinking is a ongoing activity wherever we are. So far we’ve never had major problems getting water, however water purity is a constant worry. 

Nepal is the first country where our water purification system was tested to the max and even beyond. We tapped into mountain streams round Pokhara, which is biologically contaminated due to upstream human and animal activity mixed with the sediment of the hills. We’ve been warned – it’s unsafe to drink even though it’s used as drinking water by locals. We took our chances and used the water for drinking after several filter steps. And again we learned new things about water purification and water filters, even by mistake after a few toilet and bucket days.

Our water supply consists of a two tank system which is connected through a water filter system. The 180 Litre (unheated) outside tank is the quarantine water tank, the inside 220 Litre tank is the clean water tank for basic living. The tanks are connected through a 3 stage water filter system – 2 water filters – a rubbish water filter (4 micron) and a carbon water filter (4 micron) and one 11 watt UV filter. We use a 3 bar pressured water system for a hot water boiler running on butane or propane gas.

Normally we top up our outside water tank only – usually a quick refill after having checked the water on clarity, smell and taste. From Iran we use Certisil Combina to treat the water in the outside tank after a refill. After 1 hour or so we pump it through the water filter system to the inside water tank. In doubt we let the water circulate a little longer through the water filter system. When its hot we stock up 4 liters of water in the fridge after having it run through a 0.3 micron ceramic portable filter (MSR).

In Pokhara Nepal it was the first time our inside water tank was contaminated with sediment and biological content. Looking back we found multiple causes how this had happened. First we topped up our inside water tank directly because we couldn’t find a fast running water tap inside Pokhara city. So we decided to stock up as much as we can. Secondly the 4 micron water filter system were used up and third the Certisil Combina purification powder was expired.  The usually familiar chlorine smell was completely gone. There was rubbish on the inside of the water filter core. And 4th we used the UV circulation system a lot less because our electricity supply was limited because of little driving and cloudy days. With all this our water treatment system wasn’t working in 4 ways and so we got Dehli bellies – slowly but steadily. Our best guess it was a Giardia contamination.

After we concluded our water filter system was contaminated we flushed it with chlorine for one full day with the sedimented water in Pokhara. No choice there – this water is allover the city. After this we overdosed the water with  a new batch of Certisil Combina. We now keep the Certisil powder in the fridge, which hopefully makes it last a few months longer.

Since the beginning of out trip we’ve ran about 23 cubic meter of water through our water filter system – including a couple of hours of internal circulation. (a water meter clocks the flow). We estimate we’ve circulated around 4 cubic meters through the water filter based on the hours we used the circulation. So basically we use about 52 litre / day in a year on average. This includes showering, washing, toilet water, cooking and drinking water for 2 persons and a dog.
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