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Before you drink water from a well, creek, or other off grid type source you should consider testing the water. Even if you use a filter you should still test the water before and after and verify what your filters are removing.
There are 5 basic types of filter, each type is suited to a particular type of contaminate, you may need to use a combination of filters on your water if you want to remove all contaminants. Most people get to know the contents of their water and use a single filter that is best suited to the particular type of water their source provides.
Carbon activated filters are known to remove tastes and odors from water, as well as attracting most organic pollutants into the charcoal and keeping them stable. It does not remove all pollutants and is suited to organic based chemical removal rather than industrial type. Some virus's and bacteria will remain in the water with this filter, though it does remove some.
Distilling water is one of the oldest and most reliable methods of making water safe, it is effective at killing most organic and bacteria/virus's and does remove most chemical pollutants, however those with a boiling point that is equal or higher than water will remain (very few).
Sand filters are also and old and tested method but require a different set of circumstances. Because the sand filter requires constant operation it may be necessary to pump the treated water into a holding tank / cistern for later user. Size the filter around the average use of water in your household, and divide the number of liters by 24 to understand how many liters an hour you need to extract and filter, this should enable you to size the filter correctly.
Ultra violet filters are more efficient at killing off virus's and bacteria, but lacks any real power at removing chemical and organic pollutants.
Reverse osmosis through a semi-porous membrane allowing only atomic sized particles through is an effective and quite universal method of filtering. It was originally developed as a method of desalinating water, but has caught on for filtration due to the fact it removes 99% of pollutants, bacteria and other toxins from the water, making it the single most effective type of filter available.