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Home » Product & Planning Guide » Plumbing » Filtration & Purification on
Narrowboats & Canal Boats


This chapter provides information on the difference between the two terms. We look at what systems are available, their pros & cons plus retro fitting of plumbed systems and cleaning of existing potable installations.

What’s the difference?
Well purification is the total collective term for the processes of removing all undesirable contaminants from water. It includes the removal of chemicals, bio-organisms and harmful suspensions from water to make it suitable for human consumption.

Filtration is only one of the processes of purification.

And that should tell you everything really. Would you rather have a water filter or a water purifier. The ideal is a water purifier that does not strip essential minerals from the water as it works. They are available, at a cost.

In fairness, so long as your potable water system is in good condition and you regularly empty and re-fill, a good quality filtration system fitted in line or supplying a secondary drinking water tap is all you really need.

The fitting of a secondary tap dedicated to drinking water is a standard practise and means filters last longer as you are not having to filter the washing-up water or the bath or shower water.

So why fit a purifier or filter in the first place?

There are many good reasons on a canal boat.
  1. Firstly the integral tank may be old and in poor condition. Well you can sort that out with a scheme of renovation and tank paint, which to be honest is advisable.
  2. It’s a nasty job but if you’ve got brown water coming out of the taps, it’s a start.
  3. Water will taste better if it’s treated. Odours can be picked up from tanks, less so if they are stainless steel or rubber but there can be a taint with plastic. More so if it’s full of rust and algae!
  4. To get rid of the bugs, insects and grass that somehow find their way in whilst filling. Let’s face it, most of us fill from a hose pipe draped across the towpath into a hole in the well deck. No matter how careful you are...
  5. To removing the taint from chemical treatments such as tablet, powder and bleach commonly used to treat potable water.
  6. To eliminate the unseen bacteria, pathogens and toxins that can contaminated water supplies.

Six good reasons alone for a fit and forget system, until filter changing time.

So, what’s available?

Jug Type Filtration
The options start with the most basic jug type filter systems that you fill from the tap. A good start, these jugs work by having a replaceable charcoal filter that the water passes through. Relatively inexpensive, they will remove unpleasant tastes and require no installation. They will not however remove moulds or micro organisms from the water.

Canister Type
Next we have the canister type which are plumbed in-line into the drinking water pipework. As we mentioned above, these can be fed from a separate pipe tee-d off from the main cold feed into a dedicated drinking tap.

Using a variety of different methods, these filters claim to either prohibit the growth or remove bacteria and micro-organisms, odours and unpleasant tastes from the drinking water system.
For the most part, these are economical perfectly reliable and proven units which will last a season. The benefit of this type of system is that spares are available from most chandlers due to their common place in the market.

Cartridge System
For those of you who want total purification there is an option on the market that will provide 100% safe drinking water from pretty much any source.

A cartridge system, it uses a 3 stage purification process combining filtration, absorption and electrostatic capture to completely remove contaminants from the water supply. There are no chemicals and no electricity involved in the process. The unit comes with a dedicated tap and is simple to instal.

It is relatively expensive when compared to other systems. Spares are not so commonly available but as the system only needs changing occasionally it is easy enough to plan ahead and order on-line.

Take Advice
Take advise from your local chandlery if you are unsure what will be right for you. People with regular water consumption and a regularly maintained tank have happily used the jug cartridge system for years.

Other people who use their boats infrequently are happy to buy bottled water and carry it on-board when enjoying their boat.
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