We Can't Live Without Water

by Dr. M. Reesal, T.J. MacAulay, Saskatchewan Health

Water constitutes the basic milieu in which chemical reactions occur in every organ of the body. Since most of the important reactions which maintain life occur in body cells, it is not surprising that at least 35 percent of our lean body weight (LBW) consists of water within cells. Our total blood volume, accounts for only 5 percent of LBW.

Each day of our life sees an exchange of water taking place in our bodies. Our lungs exhale approximately 1/3 of a litre of water daily and our skin sweats away about 1/2 litre through the 2 million sweat glands in our skin. In addition, we excrete approximately 1 1/2 litres of water a day. In order to maintain the important balance of water within our system amounts. If what goes out and what goes in do not come within 1-2 percent of each other, we feel either thirst or pain. If the body loses 5 percent of its total water, that person will suffer hallucinations. A loss of 15 percent is considered to be fatal.

It may be surprising to note that one of the most important advances made in surgery came about in the 1940s. This was not an improvement in cutting and stitching the body together, but the discovery that maintaining the proper balance of body water was most important.

It follows then that the water that furnishes the body should be clean and wholesome; preferably pleasant and tasty to drink.

In the early 1900s, most large centres began treating their water supplies with chlorination and filtration processes. However, even with all the up-to-date sophisticated treatment devices at our water treatment facilities, problems still exist.

As there probably is not one single drop of naturally pure water to be found anywhere on this earth, individuals have to take care in ensuring that their water supply is microbiologically, chemically and radiologically safe. This is easier said than done. Water is an excellent solvent, managing to pick up particles of rock and organic bits as it travels through the earth. In the cases of surface water, an array of contaminants can fall or be dumped into it.

One of the most frequent disease causing contaminants - Giardia lamblia (the cause of Beaver Fever) - is not always disseminated in water by the much maligned beaver. This is often spread by domestic and farm animals. Water may also convey Hepatitis A virus and Salmonella. Although flocculation and filtration treatment will remove the Giardia cyst, such treatment is not always effective in removing, Cryptosporidium - responsible for large outbreaks of gastroenteritis in the United States.

At least 35% of our lean body weight
(LBW) consists of water

An increasing challenge to those involved in water purification is chemical pollution of the water we drink. Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) are found in fish, indicating that our drinking water supplies are being polluted. The presence of dioxins, which find their way into the downstream of paper mills, is disturbing.

The act of drinking water is so ordinary that most people do it without thought. However, with today's widespread usage of chemicals and reduction of safe drinking water supplies, there is a need to recognize water as our most valuable resource. We must all share in the responsibility of managing, protecting and developing it.

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