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Friday, October 15, 2010

A Glass of Water

They say that water is going to cause the next big war in the world—just because of its scarcity. A glass of water is something that we take for granted. We open taps or bottles and take a deep, thirst quenching draught. Have we ever thought about this glass of water?

Civilizations were established and flourished around water sources—rivers, lakes, seas and other water sources. I remember looking at the river Cauveri and the Paalaru (river of milk) in Tamil Nadu as a child and delighting at its depth and strength of currents. Today Paalaru is a dried up river bed and is mainly used to dredge sand. Cauveri is a mere trickle and is the subject of great dispute between three states. Check dams in the upper regions of both water bodies have choked up the flow.

Water as part of natural well-being is a subject of research, debate and discourse. One school of thought advocates drinking litres of water in a day while others caution that too much water will stress the kidneys. Earlier babies were given water in between feeds especially when it was hot. Today doctors forbid even a sip of water until a child is six months old and say that mother’s milk should be the only intake of a child.

Our elders told us not to drink water in between meals and only to have it half an hour after a meal to prevent diluting of digestive juices. Now health pundits advocate hot water or green tea to help the digestive process.

Water was drunk straight from the tap—pumped up into overhead tanks from open wells and bore wells in the compound of homes. Water was stored in earthenware pots. The taste and thirst quenching qualities of a glass of water from it was unique. Some homes would add cardamom and a dash of dry ginger to help with the digestion. A portable pot, surai, with a spout was used for travels. In hot summer months a little tent was set up on every main street and water was served free to passers-by. This was an integral part of community service especially during temple festivals and village celebrations.

Then refrigerators and ice-water stored in glass bottles (reused squash and whisky bottles) entered our lives. Filters became popular in homes and water was processed through ceramic candles manually or with electricity. In Mumbai many people drink boiled water, especially in the rainy months. Now with so much contamination we filter the water, boil and cool it and then drink it.

Plastic bottles of water in various shapes and hues occupy refrigerator doors. Many urban households order 5 litre plastic cans of water that is home delivered. The purity of this water is a matter of debate and raises its ugly head in the media.

Bottled water has become a ubiquitous aspect of our life. Even the common man buys little sachets of water and quenches his thirst. Bottled water has a great negative environmental impact. It also is a potential health risk. Plastics consume a lot of energy to be manufactured. They are not bio-degradable and disposable plastic bottles are greatly used in landfills and are a major cause of pollution at various stages of manufacturing, bottling and transporting the water over great distances. Re-used plastic bottles are hotbeds of bacteria they love moist environments.

Metal and glass should be your choice as they can be sterilized and thus reducing the risk of contamination. Next time you pour out a glass of water make sure that you drink it all up, or pour just enough that you will consume. When you leave half drunk water in a glass you are wasting natural resources.

Think about water, use it judiciously and in as natural a manner as possible. Check out for more about water and how you can save it.