The worst drinking water I’ve ever tasted came out of the taps in the Outback mining town in Western Australia where we lived for eight years.
It was transported through above-ground pipes from a dam over 60 kilometres away, so our “cold” water was hot enough for showering all year round. In summer, the first blast from the tap was scalding.
This water was very hard and alkaline. It irritated skin, dried out hair, furred up irons and kettles and ruined clothes. In older houses, calcium “stalactites” hung from every plug-hole.
As a result of those years, I’m now quite fussy about my drinking water (and our stock water). I like it cold, clear and chemical-free.
Rural water supplies should be filtered
The usual water sources on rural properties are streams, bores, springs, rain or a combination. Water from all of these sources requires some form of filtration to keep it clean and safe to drink – not just for humans, but for livestock as well. Dairy cows in particular are sensitive to poor water quality.
Our water comes from a stream flowing through the property. The catchment area is a sub-alpine DOC reserve. The stream flows down through beech forest and it’s about as cold and chemical-free as you can get.
It’s not always clear, though, and at certain times of year it’s decidedly “lumpy” (contains a large amount of solids). If you have bore water, you’ll probably notice this as well.
Working out your filter requirements
The size and type of filters you’ll need depend on a number of factors:
- The water source itself – this determines the contaminants you’ll need to filter out
- The amount and size of solids contained in the water – silt requires a finer filter than leaves
- The rate of water flow through the filter – bigger filters take longer to clog up, so need cleaning less frequently
A filtration system for a stream-fed water supply
We filter our water at four points:
- A mesh basket filter at the intake in the stream
- A finer mesh filter (400 micron) before the float valve in the tank
- An 80 micron screen filter at the outlet of the tank, followed by
- A 5 micron poly/paper filter
All filters can be isolated for cleaning.
This system is simple, inexpensive, effective and easy to maintain (even I can sort it out if Ewan’s not around). It works well in our situation because we’re the only people drawing from the stream and the solids are organic.
If you’re unsure about filter requirements for your own property, or if you’re in a rural area where you think Giardia could be a risk, talk to the experts.