Friday, April 7, 2017

The Parable of the Three Water Filters

I was recently on the phone (talking, like, using my voice) with a friend of mine from Moab, and during our conversation, she reminded me of the famous local fable of the three water filters.  I couldn't remember the tale in its entirety, so I called the Grand Country Public Library and had a librarian track down the ancient, sun bleached scroll on which it was written.  From there in the Artifacts and Relics room in the basement, she read these words:
One summer day, under the sweltering desert sun, three weary travelers came upon the same hidden spring.  As they sat down upon the large rock covering the tiny oasis, they discussed the virtues of each of their water filtration systems.

The first traveler was a young man in his 20's, and he carried a gravity based water filtration system.  He stated that his water filter was the best because it required the least amount of effort.  All he needed to do was fill the dirty water bag with one mighty scoop and then hang the filtration system from a nearby rock, allowing gravity to handle passing the water through the filter to the clean bag.

The second traveler was a bearded man in his 50's, and he carried a standard, hand operated, backpacking filter. He claimed that the young man was wrong, and that his water filter was the best because it was the fastest.  Sure, it required more effort with all of the pumping, but the work was worth it, as his filter was 10x faster than the gravity filter.

The third traveler, a man by the name of Troy, also carried a standard, hand operated, backpacking filter.  His filter was different from the old man's, though.  Not in model, as they were the exact same, but in operation speed, as Troy's was only 2x faster than the gravity filter.  He said that he wasn't sure if his water filter was best, but he at least knew it was better than that slow-ass gravity filter.  He also had his suspicions that it might be better than the old man's due to some basic knowledge of how filtration through dense, semi-porous rock worked.

The first traveler died of dehydration on that rock while waiting for his clean bag to fill.  The second traveler (also) died of dehydration a few days later when he succumb to Giardia induced diarrhea, as his filter was missing a gasket and was not really filtering anything, hence the speed of which he was so boastful.  The third traveler, hydrated and in good health, eventually found his way back to civilization and lived happily ever after.

Moral: Water filters should pump slowly, as proper filtration takes time.  But seriously, gravity?  That's soooooo slow!
Some say that isn't a fable at all. That it's a true story you can still hear faintly echoing off canyon walls if you listen closely enough.  Still others say, "Yeah, that's a lie.  No one died.  The slow filter part was spot on, and the guy with the missing gasket is lucky he never got sick drinking that filthy, standing water, but other than that, this story was parabolic at best and braggartly at worst."  As it's an ancient fable, I guess we'll never know the truth...

This is the filter I use.  I love this filter and have used it all over, never once getting sick.  Please notice the red gasket that's faintly visible near the bottom of the main filter cylinder, just above the widened threaded bottom.  You need that.
(Photo courtesy of MSR)

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