Friday, June 20, 2014

More questions on the British Berkefeld (BB) (Doulton/ Berkey) Water Filter

I'm not really knowledgeable about water. I'm wondering if you could give your opinion about some question I have.

1) Do you use this filter at home or another filter? If another kind, why?

2) I'm thinking of getting a small one for myself as I don't think the water I get from the tap (even though I boil it) is healthy. Do you have any thoughts on that? I'm sure using the filter would ensure the water is better right than just drinking boiled tap water in Singapore right?

3) There are so many other kinds of filters or water products, etc. - Kangen that gives alkaline water, Diamond, etc. How do you think the Berkefeld compares to the rest?

Also, if I get the Berkefeld, I heard some people say that I should get the arsenic and flouride filter too. I think that was from people in America getting the Berkey brand (according to you, both are the same right?) Are those additional filters necessary and available from Arkwater?


Hi J,

Sorry for the delay in replying.

You may want to check out my previous posts on water filters/purifiers as I have touched in depth on the answers to some of your questions. In particular, please read the post on "Testing your drinking water - the whys and why nots".

Before I go further, let me reemphasise that throughout my blog, any recommendation of companies, brands, models is purely based on my experience and knowledge. Unless stated explicitly, I am in no way affiliated to them and derive no benefits from recommending them.)

Now, to answer your questions:

1) No, I don't regularly use any sort of filter at home. Most of the filters mentioned in my blog are part of my academic endeavours (aka projects). The exceptions are the small portable ones e.g. Katadyn Mini for my personal use outdoors. (Hey, even if the virgin jungle streams are supposed to be free of pollutants, I very much prefer to at least boil or filter the stream water. Nevertheless I have drunk straight from the stream without ill effects. Not something I recommend but it has been done.)

Oh, back to your question... Despite the shortcomings of the WHO drinking water guidelines and the controversies surrounding chlorination and fluoridation of drinking water, I still believe PUB is doing a good job of ensuring safe drinking water in Singapore. Not taking things at face value, I have done various tests on tap water over the years. Though nowhere as extensively done as PUB (I frankly don't have the resources that it has), the results generally agree with the claims by PUB on compliance to or even surpassing WHO guidelines.

Then why am I talking about the BB filter at all? Because, it is a valuable item to have around during emergencies when the quality of your water supply is suspect. That is, if you have any water coming out of your tap at all. Check out the disasters in Chile, Haiti, Pakistan, New Zealand and I am sure in many other countries too on the status of their water supply after a bad dose of earthquake, storm or flood.

And for those who venture to developing countries to do OCS (overseas community service), a BB filter is invaluable in areas with unknown water quality unless you enjoy bottled water for 2 weeks or more.

2) Again, please read my earlier posts on water filters/purifiers. In short, Singapore tap water is already very clean so a water filter will find itself hard pressed to clean the tap water further. Any removal of contaminants will likely be marginal. Unless you are prepared to go a big step up to the next level of water distillers, reverse osmosis (RO) or air-to-water devices. These machines are generally expensive at the outset and also in terms of the power they suck up. RO involves the replacement of the RO membrane modules which are not exactly cheap, partly because most of them are proprietary for your particular make and model. 

However, having said the above, psychology is a powerful factor to consider. If you feel that a water filter can ensure your good health, do go ahead to install one. Furthermore, many health issues regarding drinking water are controversial. Heck, who knows, some of them may be proven right in the future. E.g. chemical X is indeed bad for your health... you mean you have consuming it all your life... oppps.

Ultimately, what I am saying is if you indeed make a purchase, know why you are doing so. It should not be based on blind fear or unsubstantiated rumours or worse, unscrupulous sales tactics by a water filter supplier.

Think about the "whys" in buying a water filter. Are you worried about a particular chemical(s)? If so, is it at a significant level in your tap water? If it is, can your filter really remove it effectively? Not sure? How about this: before your buy, ask the supplier to let you run a real water sample through the filter and send the input and output samples to a certified lab for testing of that particular chemical? I am not sure if the supplier will agree but it is worth a try.

3) I shall not comment much on alkaline water at this point except to say that I prefer to remove contaminants from water rather than try to add something (alkali) (a contaminant?) into my drinking water. Something which is still controversial in its health claims and that complicates matters unnecessarily.

4) Arsenic is not a problem in Singapore. It is a big and dangerous problem when groundwater (well water) is used e.g. Bangladesh and parts of USA.

Fluoride in water is still a controversial topic. You can find out more about fluorosis in Internet. I believe the fluoride removal element from Arkwater needs to be connected to your pressurised water supply (i.e. tap) to work. It doesn't work well with gravity flow. Something to take note of if you decide to get it.

Good luck!

Figure: BB filter big enough for a family. There are smaller and bigger versions too.

Figure: My Katadyn Mini. Small and handy. Useful for the outdoors. Has a capacity of 7000 litres per filter element. Unfortunately, it can only remove particles and microbes of bacterial size and above. Not so effective against viruses and chemicals.

Figure: Inside a BB filter housing - 3 filter elements (or candles) to allow a reasonable throughput for a family

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