Posted by: oldsalt1942 | May 25, 2009


Water, as we all know, is essential to life. In a future post I want to explore the subject of rainwater catchment and how it can be adapted to living on a houseboat/shantyboat. But in researching the subject I ran across these three unique solutions to the problem of potable water.

The first is called the LifeStraw. LifeStraw includes LifeStraw Personal and LifeStraw Family, which are complementary point-of-use water filters designed by the Swiss-based Vestergaard Frandsen for people living in developing nations. There are several models of the product: LifeStraw Personal filters a minimum of 700 litres of water, enough for one person and one year. LifeStraw Family filters a minimum of 18,000 litres of water, providing safe drinking water for a family for more than two years. It removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, 99.99% of viruses, and 99.9% of parasites. LifeStraw Personal kills 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 98.5% of viruses.

The LifeStraw Personal is a plastic tube 31 cm long and 30 mm in diameter and costs around $5.00 plus shipping, Water that is sucked through the straw first passes through a mesh of 100-micrometer spaces, then through a mesh of 15-micrometer spaces. Water then passes through a chamber with iodine-coated beads, killing remaining bacteria. The water passes through an empty chamber, then finally passes through active carbon, removing the iodide taste and medium-sized bacteria. The entire process is powered by regular sucking, similar to using a conventional drinking straw, and filters up to 700 liters of water. The filter does not currently remove Giardia lamblia, but the company is working on this issue.



Another, but much more expensive product is the Life Saver Bottle


lifesaver detail

The Lifesaver was developed in response to natural disasters such as 2004’s tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. The concept is relatively simple, based upon the fact that the smallest virus is 25 nanometers across, so by using a filter with holes 15 nanometers across, all nasties can be trapped without the need for chemicals. The term ‘nasties’ is actually quite an understatement. Lifesaver can filter out bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and all other microbiological waterborne pathogens. And in the real world, of course, the bottle was much harder to realize than we’ve described it. The bottle is the world’s first ultra filtration water bottle, and the inventor put all of his life savings into developing it.

But it was this level of development effort that has brought about a product that is exceptionally easy to use. Fill it with water by unscrewing the base and dipping it in the nearest puddle or stream, screw the base back and use the pump to force the water through to a teat at the other end. The clean water can then be drunk directly or poured into a separate container for storage. These simple instructions make it suitable for use by children, and in developing countries.

The unit uses replaceable filters, which can treat about 4000 liters of water – five and a half years of usage if you drank 2 liters every day. The filter is speedy, too – 750ml of water can be prepared in just under a minute. And users can rest safe in the knowledge they’re getting maximum life out of the product without poisoning themselves, as the unit has a unique feature to shut itself off when the cartridge has expired.

The Livesaver  isn’t exactly cheap,costing £230 ($460) but it is a world first.

Then there’s the Solar Bottle


These new bottles are designed to take advantage of the “SODIS” (Solar Disinfection) method of water disinfection—using the heat and ultraviolet radiation from the sun to purify water—by putting a layer of black, sun-absorbing material opposite the clear side of the bottle. The SODIS method can be used with generic clear water bottles and a painted black tin roof, but these “Solar Bottles” are designed to be entirely portable and feature a clever notched handle that can make it easier to get the water directly in the sun’s rays.

Each Solar Bottle can hold a gallon of water and can be held back-to-back for easy transport.

I can’t find any pricing on this item.

Any of the above would work well for houseboat/shantyboat dwellers living aboard in fresh water areas.

For those on salt water there is one product that will produce enough desalinized water for one or two people on a sunny day…Solar stills. They don’t produce a lot of water like a $6,000 high-tech desalinator, but there are no moving parts and they work.

There’s the The Watercone, invented by Stephan Augustin, a conical solar still made from recyclable polycarbonate, with a screw cap spout on the top and a collecting trough in the base which catches the condensation for use as drinking water. The design is ingenious. It’s simple, cheap, and effective. The units even nest together to reduce the transportation costs.

You pour the salt water into the base made from Bayer Makrolon, an ultra-tough and recyclable UV resistant polycarbonate. Place the cone over a pan of salty water (or any damp ground, even floating on a pool of water), leave it in the sun to evaporate, you flip it over at the end of the day, take off the cap and drink or store the water.


I don’t know how much this item costs, but the Aquamate Solar Still goes for $187.75 through

As well as where it retails for $200.

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