The Evolution of Water Purification Technology and Equipment

It’s often said that there is nothing new under the sun and this certainly appears to apply to the idea of water purification. On the other hand, although the concept itself may be an ancient one, the practical aspects of the process have evolved beyond recognition in the intervening millennia.

According to ancient Greek and Sanskrit writings unearthed by archaeologists, the need seems to have first been recognised around 4000 years ago. The population, at that time, knew nothing of the finer points that may affect the purity of a source and, as a result, needed to rely purely upon the clarity and taste of samples when making their assessments. In cases where the contents of a pool or a well were seen to be visibly turbid, they would then employ some means by which to remedy this. In the event that an action appeared to restore clarity, it was found to have also rendered the contents noticeably more palatable.

Even in those distant times, long before micro-organisms were even postulated let alone linked to disease, the people were already aware that the application of heat was a means to render samples better for drinking purposes. Far more surprising, however, is the established fact that, even as far back as 2000 BC, the people of ancient Greece and India also understood and applied the principles of filtration through sand and gravel – techniques that are still in use today.

In these primitive though surprisingly insightful attempts at water purification improving its taste was always the prime motivation and it was quite often found that some of the samples retained their cloudiness even after such treatment and were, thus, not considered to be suitable for drinking. It was to take a further 5 centuries before the Romans hit upon another technique that, like sand filtration, is still in use today and is known as coagulation or flocculation.

The stubborn cloudiness that they encountered on occasions was, in fact, due to very fine colloidal particles that were much too small either to settle out or to be filtered effectively. However it was found, most likely by chance, that, with the addition of alum, these small particles then proceeded to aggregate into larger clumps which were than sufficiently dense to allow them to settle under the influence of gravity. Today sophisticated flocculants are used to perform a similar function although, of course, these are a great deal better at the task than crystals of alum.

As it turned out, the Romans were to become the world’s leaders in all manner of related activities, being the first, for instance, to develop the aqueduct, the precursor to our modern pipeline systems and also used to transport the precious liquid between its source and the consumer. Their next breakthrough in water purification was the development, in around 500 BC of the so-called Hippocratic sleeve. It was used to trap the sediments responsible for bad taste and odours and closely parallels the bag filters that were once widely used for clarification of South Africa’s swimming pools.

Following the so-called dark ages, development were resulted in the 17th century and have continued into the present, giving rise successively to filters for domestic use, chlorination, water softening treatments, ion exchange, membrane separation and reverse osmosis. Today, however, despite all of our huge technological advances in this field, H2O, one of the simplest and most vital of all chemical compounds is rapidly becoming one of the most endangered resources on the planet.

In response to this deepening crisis, WaterIcon has been supplying South African homes, municipalities and a wide range of industries with the advanced equipment and related materials that are designed to slow this alarming trend, since 1988. Our high performance products include industrial grade pumps and housings, dosing systems, filter cartridges and media, water softeners, membranes and systems for reverse osmosis and ultrafiltration.

Specialising in the design, assembly and installation of turnkey systems for bespoke projects, we call upon the latest technological advances in clarification, desalination, ion exchange and other processes as deemed appropriate to the given application.

WaterIcon has been responsible for numerous installations in support of conservation efforts by municipal, commercial and industrial organisations throughout South Africa and the neighbouring states and continue to support them with their maintenance and operational needs. Consequently, our company is well known and widely respected for its quality products, expertise and customer-centric policies that have set the benchmark for water purification systems.

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