How Ancient Civilizations Purified Water

How did the ancient people purify their water?

Have you ever heard the phrase: When you go to foreign countries, don’t drink the water? They call it Montezuma’s revenge. Impure drinking water can provide a variety of pathogens,

including E. coli, Pseudomonas, Legionella Pneumophila (Legionnaires’ disease), Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Salmonella, giardia and others. If you get giardia (from human/animal feces), symptoms will include explosive diarrhea and possible dehydration. It’s not life threatening in most cases. What have people historically done to assure the quality of their drinking water?

With low population densities, spring water or even ground water may be quite clean. Water filtered naturally through the soil would retain fewer harmful contaminants. A good rule of thumb, the more dispersed the population, the better the water.

Rainwater, if captured properly, provides an excellent source of fresh water. Rainwater is evaporated (distilled) water purified in the clouds using ozone (lightening) and UV light (Sun light) before returning to earth in its purest form. Rainwater is generally only contaminated when it makes contact with a contaminated surface.

Here is the Wikipedia site information:

Acid Rain -High population communities or communities with a significant number of factories spewing smoke or exhaust into the air run the risk that the water can be acidic. But, the pH would certainly be less acidic than that of Coca Cola with a pH of 3.0, about the same as vinegar.

Here is the Wikipedia site information: and another at


How has water typically been treated?

Boiling – If water is boiled for three to five minutes, most of the harmful living pathogens are killed and consequently destroyed. Boiling does not remove harmful minerals or other products suspended or absorbed by the water. Distillation can be a form of boiling that converts the liquid to a gas leaving these undesirable elements behind.

Distillation –Distilled water is water that has converted to gas through several processes is then collected and condensed back into water in an uncontaminated container. Distillation results in pure water being collected, with all of its impurities and contaminants removed. Any solid material found in the water, salts, minerals, bacteria and so on, are heavier than the water molecules themselves. When the water is heated to the point where it evaporates, it converts into a gas and is transported elsewhere, while these solids remain in their original container. Distilled water has been in use since at least the days of the Ancient Greeks, with Aristotle mentioning the process in his works. It was used in ancient times to make sea water drinkable. One of the first proponents of distilling water was none other than Julius Caesar, who was believed to have used solar distillation in order to produce drinking water for his Roman legions as they conquered the world.

A simple Solar distiller can be made using a tarp or sheet of plastic. Dig a hole, place a pan in the center of the hole and cover it with the tarp. Put a small rock on top of the tarp in the center. After a few hours the pan will have collected a surprising amount of pure distilled water.

Here is the Wikipedia site information:

Silver has been used by ancient civilizations too for healing various health problems Silver is probably the only historical chemical purification. Silver is an effective anti-??? agent. Silver water chalets were thought to be healthier in early Greece.

Silver has germicidal effects and kills many lower organisms effectively without harm to higher animals. Silver is capable of rendering stored drinking water potable for a long period of time (several months). Water tanks on ships and airplanes are often “silvered”.

 Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, wrote that silver had beneficial healing and anti-disease properties.  The Phoenicians used to store water, wine, and vinegar in silver bottles to prevent

spoiling.  Prior to antibiotics, Colloidal Silver was used widely in hospitals as a bactericide.  In the early 1800s, doctors used silver sutures in surgical wounds with very successful

results.  Pioneers of the American West found that if they placed silver or copper coins in their casks of drinking water, it kept the water safe from bacteria, algae, etc.  In the early 1900s people would put silver dollars in milk bottles to prolong the milk’s freshness.  Silver compounds were used successfully to prevent infection in World War I (before antibiotics).  Silver leaf was used to combat infection in wounds sustained by troops during World War I.

Here is the Wikipedia site information:

Here is another good article on silver as a purification medium.

Carbon filters have been used for several hundred years and are considered one of the oldest means of water purification. Historians have shown evidence that carbon filtration may have been used in ancient Egyptian cultures for both air and water sanitization. Carbon filters are most effective at removing chlorine, sediment, odors and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from water. They are not very effective at removing minerals, salts, and dissolved inorganic compounds.

Here is the Wikipedia site information:

Chlorine Chlorine is cheap and easy. Modern people have been using Chlorine to purify their drinking water for over 100 years. Thousands of American municipalities add chlorine to their drinking water to get rid of microbes. But this inexpensive and highly effective disinfectant has a dark side. Chlorine, added as a cheap and effective drinking water disinfectant, is also a known poison to all living creatures. Chlorine gas was used as a weapon in the First World War.” The gas would severely burn the lungs and other body tissues. It is no less powerful when ingested by mouth or through your skin while showering, bathing or swimming. Other purification techniques are available that do not use harmful chemicals. The U.S. Council of Environmental Quality has been quoted on several occasions as having released a report stating that the risk of cancer is 93% higher among those drinking chlorinated water than among those not drinking chlorinated water!

Here is the Wikipedia site information:

Also see the following links for more information on Chlorine:

Are Chlorine’s Beneficial Effects in Drinking Water Offset by Its Links to Cancer.;

An article about the ill effects of drinking chlorinated water?

Is your water safe?

Chlorine -One of the dangers that lurks in our water supply.

Ultra-violet – UV irradiation is well accepted as a means of purifying water. UV is typically used in combination with other purification technologies to achieve a high level of purification without the need for harmful chemicals. UV from the sun purifies water in the atmosphere and has done this for millenniums.

Here is the Wikipedia site information:

Ozonation – Water can be treated with ozone (three oxygen atoms instead of two). Lightning or electrical charges create ozone. You may notice the slight sulfur aroma after a strong lightning storm. Ozone has all the purification effectiveness of chlorine without the harmful side effects. The Ozonation process also creates water with higher than normal levels of oxygen without leaving any residual taste or substances in the water.

Here is the Wikipedia site information:

Reverse Osmosis is a micro-filtration process that tends to produce a low TDS but dangerous chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, and chlorine are molecularly smaller than water and can pass freely through the filter. Water subjected to Reverse Osmosis seems to be tasteless and flat. It also seems to carry a very low pH, making it acidic. Additionally, 2-5 gallons of water are wasted for every gallon of purified water produced through reverse osmosis.

Here is the Wikipedia site information:

Desalination – We commonly describe desalination as a form of water purification in converting sea water to drinking water by removing the salt and minerals.. Technically, it nearly always used a combination of the various processes described above. Here is the Wikipedia site information:

Wikipedia also produced an article that provides intimate details on the current status of water purification.

Here is the Wikipedia site information:

Other promising techniques include magnetization, vortices and a multitude of experimental processes with the ultimate goal of purifying water both thoroughly and cheaply. Many of these treatments not only claim to purify the water, they also describe various other benefits including water structure and character. Citations include healthier and more robust plant growth.

Since the evolution of time, water has sustained us. Over the past 150 years, we have marred the collection and treatment of water for the good of the masses. Chlorine, a very effective poison, is now used for its availability and cost. So let’s go back to our past and re-invent purification processes that are good for life and for the environment.

By: Larry R. Curran, Founder and CEO of Choose Rain Inc., OTC-PK symbol “CHOS” Choose Rain will capture Rainwater, process it with ozone, UV light and magnetics, not chlorine, and bottle it in a biodegradable bottle that goes away in a landfill in 3 to 5 years. We believe we are headed down the wrong path and need to change. We believe that irresponsible harvesting of our aquifers will result in water shortages and saltwater intrusion. We believe that plastic bottles are more of a curse than our salvation and, while chlorine is effective at killing pathogens, it is a poison we should avoid. The use of Hydroponic systems and Rainwater -based organic nutrients complete the opportunity to make a difference. Our company’s mission is to make changes, baby steps, through education to make life better for our children. The “HELP, BUT DON’T PANIC” theme will help us spread our message. Respect Mother Nature – Choose Rain!


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Larry Curran

Larry Curran

I have a passion for rainwater. In 2004, I built a home in Florida that uses rainwater as the only source of water. After retirement and 40 years as a CPA/ CFO, I formed Choose Rain, Inc., a small cap public company trading as “CHOS” OTCPK, to serve a sustainable need for bottled water with a low impact on the environment.
Larry Curran
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