The two sides of water


Philosophically, water is said to be one of the basic elements of nature along with air, earth and fire. Just like air, the importance of water in our daily lives cannot be underestimated. Water is basically a clear and non-smelling liquid, which people need to re-hydrate and is required by all forms of life on earth.

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Every individual needs at least 20 to 50 litres of clean safe water a day for drinking, cooking and keeping clean. The amount of water needed, however, depends on physical activity, age, other healthrelated problems and environmental conditions. Water makes up about 60 per cent of weight in men and 55 per cent in women. It constitutes about 70 per cent of the body weight of infants and 45 per cent of the body weight of the elderly.

Clean or safe water, therefore, is one that is harmless and free of dirt or impurities and contains microbial, chemical and physical characteristics that meet with the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on clean drinking water.

Some medical experts have advised that people should strive to take eight glasses of water per day. But a medical doctor, Dr Wale Sonaiya, has a different opinion.

“It could be dangerous for people to drink too much water because if they do, there is the tendency for them to urinate frequently and with this, they lose some minerals like potassium and sodium,” he said.

However, medical experts agree that, aside from the right quantity of water, it is very important also to keep it clean, as water could be dangerous or beneficial to the body, depending on how clean it is. Every year, 1.8 million people worldwide die from diarrhoea and diseases like cholera, typhoid and dysentery, and over tens of millions other people suffer from water-related ailments.


Water can be made clean in three major ways; boiling, purifying or filtering. However, water contaminated by toxic chemicals cannot be made safe by boiling or filtering. The best option is to find another source of water.

When water is boiled, the disease causing germs, viruses, bacterias and parasites in it are killed by the heat. But some good microorganisms may be destroyed in this way and even by the purifying method of adding chlorine or purification tablets/liquids. After boiling and allowing the water to cool and settle, it is best to transfer the water to another container.

Another method of making water safe is by using purification tablets. This method may make the water taste bitter and is usually not the best method for purifying water.

The most common purification tablets are iodine tablets although some people use chlorine tablets to get the same results. These tablets are most effective when the water being purified is 21OC or higher. When iodine tablets are being used by pregnant women, women over 50, people with thyroid problems or taking lithium, a doctor must be consulted.

When using this method, the water can be filtered through a clean cloth or strainer to remove any particle, then the tablets can be crushed in the water. Shake the bottle or glass and the water is ready to drink.

Water purifiers are also good. This could be a pump purifier, water bottle with an in-built purifier or an ultraviolet purifier. In all, do not take general advice for water intake. Approach your doctor to know how many glasses of water your body needs per day.