Fifth grade was the year that I really gave much thought to the water I drink. I can thank the Cub Scouts for that. Up to that point, water came in only two mutually exclusive categories. There was the stuff I would drink and the stuff I would not drink. The distinction was simple, clear water was drinkable and dirty, smelly water wasn’t. Turns out there is often more to it than that.
Thanks to Cub Scouts, I learned that there are things that can be done to make icky water less icky and potentially drinkable. This all came out in the context of camping. Apparently, bears are like boys and they pee when they go swimming and a person can end up with a gut full of nasty bugs if they drink the bear pee water. At least that’s what we were told.
Our house in Evergreen, Colorado had a deep well and we never worried about bear pee or other lurking dangers.
I remember when I was in college in Boulder, Colorado noticing that the quality of the city tap water wasn’t consistent. It looked a bit brown and tasted worse than usual early every spring, probably due all of the dissolved and undissolved solids in the runoff. Maybe, there were some extra chemicals that were needed to kill off the unwanted critters too. Still, I didn’t worry too much. In my mind, if it came out of the tap it meant that someone who knew something had given it the stamp of approval and deemed it safe.
For a long time I took good safe water to be a given but as time passes it is becoming less of a given, even in a modern country like the U.S. The reports of plastics beads in the ocean, BPA in our water bottles, prescription drugs in municipal water supplies, entire lakes ruined by runoff from farms, toxic algae blooms in all water sources from fertilizer runoff are all a super bummer and super scary. Even the fluoride that everybody thought was a good thing turned out to be horrible for us. Lead, seemingly a problem of the past, is turning up more and more in the water we drink.
These things bring me back to what I learned in Cub Scouts. There are things that we can do to improved the quality of our water. The quest for drinkable water is an everyday event, not just something to do when we are roughing it in nature.
About five years ago I really started thinking about how to have cleaner water at home. At that point Satomi and I had been using a Britta filter for years. The improved taste of the water gave us a the feeling that we were taking prudent steps to be safe and healthy.
At the time we were living in Japan, surrounded by agriculture and aquaculture. Both of them were pouring insane amounts of pesticide and herbicide into the environment. It’s bad to douse a field with chemicals. It turns out that the consequences continue far away from the growing areas because the chemicals don’t stay where they were put. They drift in the wind, run off with the water and get tracked in to the home on clothes and shoes. Some of it was bound to end up in our water.
We dabbled with getting spring water from a mountain a few town over but that was short lived. It was hassle to drive to the spring, fill the bottles and drive home. And, while it tasted great from the source, after a few days in the containers we used it tasted like plastic. On top of that, drinking spring water is a thing of the past for most people. We were often told that the water probably had bacteria in it. Here a cautionary tale one time too many and it sticks. Doubt, coupled with hassle, combined to send us back to the tap and a simple Britta filter. The anxiety about clean water stayed.
When we moved to Manhattan, I finally felt compelled to up my water filtration game. I bought a Berkey filter. It’s big, unweildy, slightly annoying to clean and also one of my most treasured possessions. It has two carbon filters and two additional filters for chlorine and heavy metals. It won’t get everything but it gives me peace of mind and the water tastes much better. Rice even cooks up fluffier and tastes a little better with that filtered water.
There is an entire other rabbit holes to venture into regarding the water in which we shower and bathe, the water we swim in and the water that falls on us from the sky. Is water from a moving source better than a still source? Is from underground better than from the surface? Is mountain better than dessert? Is different water better for different people? They are interesting but none of those is the way to start.
In truth, I’m not a water fanatic but I know this about water: Whatever our relationship to it is, we can improve it and reap the benefits of that improved relationship. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Just doing a little better tomorrow than we are doing today leads to big improvements over time.
To get you started, here are a few simple ways to improve your relationship with water. Start where you are in life and don’t try to do too much.
If you feel like you don’t drink enough, drink more.
If you drink enough, improve the quality.
If you don’t filter already, get a filter. It doesn’t need to be the fanciest.
If you buy bottled water, buy your own bottle and refill it.
If you have an old plastic water bottle, get a new one that is less likely to add icky chemicals to your water. I like stainless steel but I plan to upgrade to glass at some point.
If your water is overly filtered it may lack minerals. Sprinkle a little sea salt in it.
Start the journey today and take your time. It will be worth the effort.