The History Of Water Filtration
Water may be plentiful on this planet, but that certainly doesn't mean that it's all consumable. No matter how crystal clear, cold, and refreshing naturally-occurring water may appear (such as that in streams and rivers), the reality of the situation is a little bit more microscopic and a lot more disgusting.
From Salmonella typhi (better known as Typhoid Fever) to E. coli, the water that surrounds us is teeming with vast colonies of bacteria. We're sorry to tell you that certain kinds, such as cryptosporidium and Giardia intestinalis, are passed by feces contamination -- yuck!
These all cause a range of harmful and potentially deadly effects, which we will (graciously, you're welcome) not mention, but their constant presence makes one wonder how ancient civilizations survived without consuming them. The human body is 60% water and constantly needs to be re-hydrated, so we can rule out the idea that they just weren't drinking water; the truth is that they had developed filtration systems even before they knew what was they were filtering!
Ancient purification methods date back to 4000 B.C.; people would use copper, iron, or hot sand (in conjunction with boiling) to disinfect water, and then herbs, such as Indian gooseberry or Vetiver (which are high in vitamin C) would be added for their beneficial aspects. Plants were sometimes used to purify water as well, such as the roots of water lilies and the seeds of the nirmali. They may not have been trying to boost productivity like the water filters of today boast, but they undoubtedly created stable methods of creating safe drinking water.
Those methods took care of the bacteria, but almost all collected water contains solids in the form of sediments that would need to be filtered out and removed before it could be consumed. The Egyptians used aluminum sulfate or iron sulfate (sometimes both) to extract suspended solids, and the Greeks used a fabric bag called the Hippocrates Sleeve to strain the water before they boiled it.
These days, water filtration is exceptionally common: you can have a water cooler for home, many professional offices offer commercial water coolers, and even single bottles possess advanced filtration systems so you can take your clean and healthy water with you wherever you'd like. Ancient civilizations may not have been drinking filtered water to boost productivity, but that is, nonetheless, a benefit.