Water is an essential part of life. It’s an essential part of travel, too. When you’re abroad, you should always consider safe, clean drinking water. Here’s why:

  • Your heart will thank you: Hydration is a key component of heart health. Water keeps your body running efficiently, which means your heart doesn’t need to work as hard. Being dehydrated can lead to exhaustion and serious health complications.
  • Not just eight cups: Most of us have been indoctrinated with, “eight glasses of water a day” as the magic number. The truth is how much water you need depends on who you are and what you’re doing. If you’re an average height man at 5’10”, you’ll need approximately 13 cups, 3 litres. If you’re a woman, the average is 9 cups. You’ll need more than usual if you’re engaging in heavy activity, spending time outside, at a higher altitudes, pregnant, breastfeeding or fighting off an illness.
  • Don’t wait until you’re thirsty: If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Instead, pay attention to the color of your urine. Pale urine signifies hydration. Dark urine means you need to push the fluids.

 

Before you drink any water abroad, you should know it’s safe. Depending on where you’re going, this might take some extra work. Here are a few tips to keep your water pure and healthy:

 

  • Bottled is (sometimes) better: Bottled water can be safe, but only if it comes from a safe company. Use a reputable brand of bottled water to make sure you’re drinking clean. Be careful; make sure the seal is unbroken before you open it up and take a swig.  If you’re in another country check the expiration date.
  • It’s cool to be hot: An effective way to purify water is to boil it before you drink. Important – you CANNOT kill the bacteria by freezing the water. When you’re purifying water, bring it to a rolling boil for at least a minute. In high altitudes, increase the boil time to three minutes. Let it cool naturally; do not add ice.
  • Use a tablet: Commercially available iodine and chlorine tablets can kill bacteria and viruses. However, they may not kill some varieties of protozoa. Read the directions carefully to ensure effective purification.
  • Get a filter: Filters can help you get rid of some contaminants, but not necessarily all of them. Pay attention to the product description and make sure it will meet your needs for the type of environment you’ll be in as well as your storage and portability needs. You can also combine tablets and filters to boost your odds. One product receiving rave reviews is the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter.  It filters up to 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water removing 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites.  It is ultra light weighing only 2 ounces, has not batteries, moving parts or chemicals and sells for only $20 U.S.
  • Not just a drinking problem: Remember we don’t just drink water. We use it to brush our teeth, wash our skin and food, and make ice cubes.  Think before you do anything involving putting water into your mouth, ears or nose, including showering and swimming.   
  • Don’t assume the water is clean.  A bristling, clear, crisp brook is sometimes alluring as a source of pure water.  However, these types of water sources are usually are filled with particles of animal waste.  Animals often defecate in forest water. The U.S. Department of Agriculture warns: “One hidden hazard you should know about is a ‘disease that may be contracted from drinking untreated ‘natural’ water. The disease is an intestinal disorder called GIARDIASIS (gee-ar-dye-a-sis). It can cause you severe discomfort. The disease is caused by a microscopic organism, Giardia Lamblia. The cystic form of giardia may be found in mountain streams and lakes. These natural waters may be clear, cold and free running. They can look, smell, and taste good. You may see wildlife drinking without hesitation from these sources. All of these indicators sometimes lead people to mistakenly assume that natural waters are safe to drink. Giardia may or may not be present, but there is no way to tell by looking at the water.”

 

Did you know?

In 2015, the World Health Organization reported 946 million people around the world practice open defecation, and 663 million people around the world rely on unimproved water resources. Nature.com publishes an Atlas of a thirsty planet maps indicating:

  • The percentage of populations with access to safe water by country
  • Percentage of total disease burden caused by unsafe water by country
  • Total renewable freshwater supply by country

We need water.  We need safe drinking water.  Know your resources before you go. Sign up for our newsletter to say informed and learn more about how to depart smart!