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A History of Water Filters

history of water filters

One of the biggest reasons that rates of illness have declined throughout the course of our history on earth, is the development and advancement of water filtration techniques. It did not take us long to move past the moment when we could drink freely from streams, rivers and lakes. Concentrated human settlements quickly led to contaminated water.

Humans responded with rudimentary filtration methods. The Egyptians likely got the ball rolling with sand and gravel filters and UV light filtration. There is evidence from Sanskrit writings that these techniques were used.

Hippocrates created his own filter some years later. He used a cloth bag which removed impurities from the water after he had already boiled it.

Significant developments were few and far between, however. It wasn’t until the early 19th century that public water filtration become a priority. It was at this time that sand filters took a step forward and became widely used in the United Kingdom to filter the public water supply following an outbreak of cholera.

A few decades later, London passed the Metropolis Water Act, which made water filtration mandatory for the city. The law regulated companies that supplied water to local populations by putting certain quality standards in place.

In the United States, public water standards came into effect in the early 20th century. However, in many cases they were not properly implemented and it wouldn’t be until the 1940’s before a federal law regarding drinking water was enacted. In the 70’s, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act formed two major pieces of legislation that helped formalize national drinking water standards.

What about filters for home use

What about our good friends PUR and Brita? Personal water filters for home use go back nearly a half a century. Brita started back in 1966 when Heinz Hankammer wanted to optimize his tap water. He named the company for his daughter, Brita. PUR started producing water filters much later.

Many portable water filter companies were born in the 80’s and 90’s as travelers and hikers both sought sturdier products. Some of the more well known models that have now gone through several evolutions are the LifeStraw and the Katadyn pocket water microfilter.

Of course, a portable water filter can also be as straightforward as a t-shirt and a gas stove. Use the t-shirt to filter the water and remove sediment. Boil the water to kill any harmful organisms.

It’s hard to predict what the next 10-20 years will produce in the world of water filtration. As we’ve mentioned here, we are already intrigued by the SOMA filter.

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