Archive for September, 2011

Is Eight Glasses of Water Still the Magic Number?

Filed Under Category Health, Water by Annie Barbour

There’s no use denying that we’re biased. So okay, we admit it. We love water, and our bodies need it!

We feel better when we regularly drink it, and are more alert and more active.  There’s a good reason for this since our body is made up of 60 percent water. More than that, the majority of our vital organs are made up of water:

  • • 90% of lungs
  • • 83% of blood
  • • 80% of brain
  • • 75% of muscles

We need H20 because we’re made of it, and because our bodies naturally lose a great deal everyday. To be more precise, about 1.5 liters of water is lost daily through urination for the average adult, and another liter through the combination of breathing, sweating and bowel movements. Because of this, replacement of the body’s liquids is vital.  So, how much water is enough?

According to recent studies, the old magical rule of 8 glasses per day is considered outdated and inaccurate. The new rule of thumb varies, but the Institute of Medicine recommends 91 ounces (2.7 liters) and 125 ounces (3.7 liters) of total water a day for women and men, respectively. But before you get overwhelmed by this number, it’s important to note that 20% of your daily fluid intake comes from food, and the remaining 80% comes from water and any other beverage you consume throughout the day. This equates to just over 9 and 12.5, 8-ounce servings of water and other beverages per day for women and men, respectively, making the recommended amount less daunting, right?

Still, drinking water enables the body to function optimally. This calorie-free beverage helps suppress your appetite, which is very helpful when trying to lose weight. Staying hydrated provides you with energy and healthy skin, and also cures digestive problems and cleanses the body of toxins. After a six-year study, researchers found that drinking more than 5 glasses of water a day reduces the likelihood of dying from a heart attack by 41% compared to people who drink less than 2 glasses. Dehydration is a common cause of headaches, so try drinking a glass of water before reaching for the aspirin.

To feel your best and stay hydrated, try bringing a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go. It’s a good reminder to continue drinking the good stuff throughout the day, instead of reaching for the convenient, less healthy, and less sustainable alternatives like bottled water and carbonated beverages.  If for some reason you’re not keen on the taste of water, try adding a slice of lemon so you can enjoy the incredible effects this natural beverage has.  To your health!

We Can’t Survive on Salt Water

Filed Under Category Water by Annie Barbour

While taking a drink of that ice-cold glass of water, do you ever wonder where it comes from? Beyond the pipes in your home, past the local municipality or your own personal well, what’s the source beyond the convenience of immediate consumption?

Drinking water, worldwide, is supplied through precipitation collected in streams, rivers, lakes, seas, oceans or the ground. Water collected in the latter is fittingly known as groundwater. Surface water includes that which is collected above ground, in bodies of water. Though oceans impressively make up 98 percent of the Earth’s water, it is unsafe for human consumption, or non-potable, due to high-salt concentrations. The Department of Energy offers a scientist’s explanation of this commonly-known, but not often understood fact:

“Humans can’t drink salt water because the kidneys can only make urine that is less salty than salt water. Therefore, to get rid of all the excess salt taken in by drinking salt water, you have to urinate more water than you drank, so you die of dehydration.”

This heedful rationale is clear, and naturally points us to the safe, though small supply of drinking water. As stated in our previous post about the water cycle and the need for conservation, less than one percent of the world’s water is potable.

Surface water, which accounts for more than 75 percent of freshwater supplies, is used for various purposes including agriculture, thermoelectric, irrigation, industrial uses, and public supply. Ironically enough, the very places and people who rely on this valuable resource contaminate surface water through hazardous substances, chemicals, pesticides, petroleum, sediment, or heated discharges. Non-point sources, meaning pollutants that wash off the land into bodies of water whose origins are not easily pinpointed, are the primary source of contamination. Much of this pollution has been pinned to the prevalent use of pesticides and fertilizers, and also livestock manure runoff, which contains pathogens that pose risks to humans.

Most groundwater, like surface water, comes from precipitation. Once the rain or snow reaches earth, it trickles down through the top layers of soil, sand, gravel and/or rock until it reaches an area that is saturated with water. A saturated area containing a substantial amount of water is called an aquifer. Most commonly, wells pump water from these aquifers and distribute it to rural homes and towns as well as to farms for crop irrigation. Fertilizers and pesticides also pollute groundwater, as well as underground landfill leaks and/or gasoline leaks.

Although the pollutants are unappealing, local municipalities do a great deal to clean up that murky water. Plus, it’s really quite amazing that Earth has been reproducing water through this same cycle for billions of years, as water is without a doubt, essential for life.

Tell us about the source of your drinking water. Is it surface water or ground water? What do you like and/or dislike about it?

Water: A Precious Commodity?

Filed Under Category Water by Annie Barbour

Since that second grade science lesson with Mrs. So-and-so, you’ve been familiar with the water cycle (also known as the hydrologic cycle). Evaporation, condensation, precipitation, collection, and repeat. The process begins when the sun heats up bodies of water and vaporizes into the air. The vapor eventually gets cold at higher elevations, and changes back into a liquid state, forming clouds. Precipitation, which falls in many forms, occurs when condensation has amassed greatly in a cloud, and the air can no longer hold it. Once the precipitation reaches the earth, the water collects in rivers, lakes, oceans or soaks into the earth as groundwater.

Water Cycle

Source: Water Cycle Diagram

As the image shows, this natural process reproduces and cleanses water in a continuous cycle. The amount of water within this natural cycle remains constant, meaning the Earth will never have more water than already exists. Even though the earth is covered by 70 to 75 percent water, less than one percent of it is suitable for human uses such as drinking and cooking. The good news is that even though the percentage of water suitable for human uses seems small it is not a finite resource. This is because it is constantly being re-circulated as water from precipitation. While this occurs at a greater rate than humans consume it, the water distribution doesn’t occur proportionately to where populations are concentrated.

The challenge posed by disproportionate water distribution is further exacerbated by the increasing world population and the prevalence of water-contaminating pollutants. Currently, the world population is seven billion, which the UN estimates will increase to more than ten billion by 2100. Ever-growing population and industry contribute to increased surface water and groundwater contamination due to chemical discharge, pesticides and fertilizers from farming areas, wastewater and everyday garbage. These activities can impair and even cause water supplies to become unusable for drinking. Water distribution, population growth and water contamination are all factors that contribute to an increasing number of water scarcity events especially in arid and semi-arid regions.

While solutions such as ocean desalination and long-distance pipelines and aqueducts have been built to ensure adequate water supplies they come at a high price. Water conservation is one of the most effective, local and low-cost solutions. In the United States, the average person uses 80 to 100 gallons per day and typical usage includes:

  • • 25 to 50 gallons to take a shower
  • • 2 to 7 gallons to flush a toilet
  • • 2 gallons to brush teeth

A few simple ways to reduce water use are:

  • • Collecting water from your roof to water your garden
  • • Soak dirty pots and pans instead of running the water constantly until the dish is clean
  • • Always adjust the washer’s water level for the size of the load

What creative things do you do at home to cut back on water usage?