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Water Filtration vs. Purification: What’s the Difference?

In these modern times, we do not often give much thought to the water around us. It is a simple convenience to turn on the tap or place a glass in the refrigerator door and serve ourselves a glass of refreshing water. But that modern convenience may not be an option for those of us trying to live on our own sustainability. We may not have access to water directly from a tap or a cold refrigerator. Instead, we choose to rely on the water from the world around us to nourish and sustain our bodies. However, even water gathered and stored from the rain may not be safe for us to drink. Knowing the difference between a water purification system and a water filtration system can have a significant impact on your own health and ability to safely live off the grid.

Water Sources and Storage

At one time or another, each of us has taken a sip of water from a water hose or a nearby stream for a temporary pick-me-up. These cool refreshing breaks are not the same as having a significant and safe water source to sustain a family. When living off the grid, it is paramount to have a safe source of water. One of the simplest and plentiful sources of water is rainwater. This source can be collected easily from your own home. Simply using rain gutters directed to water barrels or other collection devices you have chosen can increase your source dramatically. Another source similar to this, for those in any areas with access to it, is snowmelt. As the weather warms after the winter, plentiful snow begins to melt. This can also be collected as a source of water for your family. Again, collect the snowmelt in any water barrel or other collection device. If you have access to a stream, lake, or pond on your property, you may have an even more plentiful source of water. However, you will need to check with your local regulatory agency to determine what, if any, limits there are to the amount of water you can pump and use from that source.

When considering a water storage system, you also have several options. As mentioned above, water can be collected in barrels or other devices. Ensure easy access to the water you have collected by adding a tap to the bottom of the storage container. In addition to these smaller devices, you may need to think of storing larger amounts of water. For this, consider using a cistern to store your water. Of course, if you want an even larger amount, you may consider building your own storage well.


Once you have collected and stored your water, you still have to consider the best way for that water to be used by your family. Of course, if you are using the water as a means to water your plants or clean a load of laundry, you may not be as concerned about the quality. If you are using the water to sustain your family’s drinking supply though, the quality of the water can mean the difference between life and death.


Water Filtration

At its most basic, water filtration is the process of ridding water of any impurities through a physical barrier, chemicals, or a biological process. An easy example of water filtration is boiling water or cleansing impurities with carbon filters. These systems are often small in nature and are sometimes thought to improve the taste of water. The key element to remember in terms of a water filtration system is that they focus largely on impurities. These systems can be used to remove even the tiniest of particles, often including bacteria and microbial cysts. Filtration systems can be permanent or portable, and the size you need will entirely depend upon the amount of water you want to filter. However, it is important to note that water filtration systems do not treat viruses in any way. While these systems may make water appear to be clean, they cannot be relied upon as a sole means to ensure safe drinking water for you or your family.

Water Purification

Similar to water filtration, the process of water purification works to remove impurities from water. However, the impurities focused on in the purification process are those that relate to the overall safety of the water: biological contaminants, viruses, chemicals, and other materials. Water purification works as a chemical process usually using either iodine or chlorine. Although iodine is the preferred chemical, chlorine is often used in its place to make sure those with an iodine allergy are still able to consume the cleansed water. It is important to remember though that simply purifying water cannot always remove other impurities found in the water.


Because the need for a water filtration and purification system is so great when living off the grid, there is a large amount of information available. Often times, this amount information can be overwhelming. Below are links to a few key locations of information on getting started with your water system.

Berkey Water Systems seem to be one of the most popular systems available, particularly the stainless steel product. Although pricey, these systems meet all the requirements you would need to have a safe water source.

Creating a do-it-yourself water filtration and purification system is another direction you could go. Many have a secondary system like this in addition to their primary one.

Understanding the various ways to establish an off-the-grid water system is crucial to creating and maintaining the safest water supply for your family.


One of the most important elements of successfully living off the grid is having the ability to create and maintain a safe water supply. Simply understanding the differences between a water filtration system and a water purification system will help you go a long way in finding your own safe water source. It is important to also know that the best overall water system will be one that includes both a filtration element for large-scale impurities and heavy metals and a purification element to ensure the overall safety and taste.

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