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The Slickrock water purification system

solar powered water filtration system
Long Caye solar-powered water filtration system

I have served as first a guide, then island manager, for the last 20 years on Long Caye at Glover’s Reef for Slickrock Adventures. For the last several years we have gotten inquiries which were basically: “Do you have filtered water?”

For hundreds of years, folks who live on islands in the tropics have used rainwater for their fresh water, and Slickrock has been no different. It tastes good, and has little in the way of contaminants, since we are so far from pollution and industry. However, because so many people ask, we decided to further improve our water by filtering it. Lucy and Cully assigned me the task to figure it out. As a solar contractor in Wyoming and Idaho, I have built solar-powered water purifications systems for forest service campgrounds which get their water from shallow springs.

For Long Caye, I decided upon a prebuilt SAF-H2O 12V filtering and purification unit. We collect this water from the roof of our Tortuga cabana, which provides staff housing and storage for gear. I chose this location as our best spot for water collection as it is far from the sea, and this building is quite tall so it is above the palm canopy. We installed two 1350 gallon tanks under the porch. The inlets are screened to remove occasional leaf. Water from one of these tanks is pumped through the SAF-H2O device: through a 10 micron filter, a 4 micron filter, and activated charcoal filter, and past a UV light. The particulate filters remove even small bacteria; the activated charcoal removes organic chemicals; and the UV light scrambles the DNA of any very tiny organisms so they can’t reproduce, effectively making them sterile.

The resulting pure water goes into a new tank, and is carried in jugs to the main water dispenser in the dining hall. SAF-H2O literature states this water will meet or exceed US-EPA requirements for drinking water. So, now we really do have the filtered water which some visitors desire.

1350 gallon water tanks arriving on island
1350 gallon water tanks arriving on island