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Water - drinking water

water; drinking;

Contents

Our bodies are made up of 50% to 60% water. Water is lost through breathing, sweat, and urine, and needs to be replaced by water from drinks and food. This is especially important in hot weather.

Water is the best drink for thirst.

As well as the content of this topic you can get more information from this topic on the Better Health Channel

How much water should we drink?

As well as drinking water and other drinks (eg. juice, tea), we get much of the water that we need from food. Many fruits and vegetables are up to 90% water, and most food contains some water.

How much water we need depends on several things, including the weather, what we are doing and how healthy we are.

  • If you are healthy, thirst is a good guide to when and how much you need to drink.
    • Being thirsty is a sign of needing a drink, not of dehydration.
    • If you are able to get drinks when you feel thirsty, and if you are well (you are not vomiting or do not have bad diarrhoea) you will not get dehydrated.
  • More drinks will be needed if you are exercising.
  • Water is much better than juices and soft drinks.
    • The high sugar content in these drinks can damage your teeth and cause you to put on weight.
    • Juices and soft drinks can interfere with your appetite so you may not get all the nutrients you need.

Some recommendations suggest that an adult needs to drink 2 litres of water and other fluids a day, but there does not seem to be much evidence that you need that much. If you drink more than you need to stop that thirsty feeling, you will just make more urine and be making lots of trips to the bathroom - 6 or 8 drinks (around 200mls at a time) of water or other fluids (tea, coffee, soft drinks) a day is probably all that is needed unless the temperature is very hot, or you are playing strenuous sport or doing hard physical work.

Myth buster 1

You do not need to drink a lot of water to 'flush' toxins out of your body. Your kidneys are flushing chemicals out of your blood all of the time without the need for a lot of extra water.

Carrying water to drink during the day

Our bodies are very good at controlling the amount of water in the body. Our body can increase or decrease the amount of urine we make and the amount of water that we lose in our faeces (poo).

Myth buster 2

We do not need lots of sips of water during the day. Several larger drinks (eg. at breaks while at school) are all that is necessary.

With more young people carrying bottles of spring water and sipping it often, there has been a big increase in the numbers of young people in South Australia who have tooth decay as there is no fluoride in spring water. Tap water has fluoride in it.

Tap water

  • Town tap water in South Australia is safe to drink without further treatment. It does not need to be filtered or treated in other ways to be safe.
  • All Adelaide metropolitan water is filtered, which improves taste and appearance. Even filtered water may contain some dissolved organic material that may affect taste for some people.
  • Many people claim that they don't like the taste of Adelaide tap water. The taste of South Australian water does not affect the safety of the water.
  • Tap water is best for teeth. In many places, including Adelaide, tap water contains added fluoride which helps protect teeth.

Myth buster 3

Fluoride in drinking water is not a health risk. There is very strong research evidence that the amount of fluoride in the tap water is safe.

Tap filters

Filters that are attached to taps can filter out large particles, but do not remove fluoride and dissolved minerals.

Myth buster 4

  • Tap filters can change the taste of water, but they do not make it safer.
  • Tap filters do not reduce the risk of getting an infection from the water.

Rain water

  • The Department of Health, South Australia says 'Providing rainwater is clear, has little taste or smell and is from a well maintained system, it is probably safe and unlikely to cause illness for most users.'
  • Rain water is always contaminated (it has germs in it). These germs often come from bird droppings.
    • Rain water should be boiled before it is given to babies and children (at least until they are 12 months old) as it will contain some bacteria and other forms of contamination.
    • Even for older children and adults, it is safest to boil rain water.
    • For elderly people, and people who are unwell, rain water should always be boiled.
  • Rain water itself is very clean, but when it falls on a roof it can pick up chemicals that have settled on the roof. There may be increased pollution in areas where there is heavy traffic or in industrial areas. If you live in these areas it is probably best that you don't drink the rain water.
  • Since lead was removed from petrol there is less risk of lead poisoning from rain water.
  • Information about maintaining rainwater tanks and the catchment area (roof and gutters from the Department of Health, South Australia  

Spring water

  • Most Australian spring water is treated to remove particles and disinfected, but it is not possible to be sure that all spring water is safe.
  • There is no fluoride in spring water (unless it has been specially added), and if this is the only water you drink, you are more likely to get tooth decay. Have a look at the topic Teeth and teeth care.
  • Plastic bottles that contain the spring water are creating a huge pollution problem.

Myth buster 5

Concerns have been raised in the media about levels of aluminium in some bottled water, but Food Standards Australia and New Zealand considers the levels of aluminium in water and food to be safe.

Bore water

Bore water may be contaminated with germs, and may have chemicals in it (such as high salt levels) which make it unpleasant or unsafe to drink. If you need to drink bore water, and you are not sure of its safety, you could get useful information from the Bore water fact sheet listed below.

References

Department of Health (SA) - Topics on Water quality: 
http://www.health.sa.gov.au/pehs/environ-health-index.htm 

National Health and Medical Research Council. 'Nutrient reference Values - Water'.
http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/publications/synopses/n35syn.htm 

NHMRC & Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand. 'Australian Drinking Water Guidelines'. 2016 https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines-publications/eh52 

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor or other health professional.
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