We all know that bottled water is the absolute scourge of the earth and we really need to start cutting back on buying these products – but how do we do that while travelling?
It is well known that Australians love travelling, not only overseas, but also all around our big wonderful country. We are very fortunate in Australia to be able to drink tap water from virtually every state (correct me if I am wrong). Some people may not always like the taste and prefer it to be filtered tap water but what happens when you start heading overseas to countries that are not fortunate?
Being able to drink water is vital while travelling – it keeps you healthy, active, dehydrated (obviously!) and who can drink beer ALL DAY EVERY DAY? well I know I can’t! So how do you do this without resorting to the dreaded bottled water?
TAKE A REUSABLE BOTTLE WITH YOU
By taking your trusty reusable bottle with you, you will have the luxury of filling up with tap water in countries where it is safe to do so (make sure you check before drinking straight from the tap in the country you are visiting!).
Some hotels may provide free bottles of water to your room every day but for many others it is not free and usually more expensive that what is sold in the shops. But if you have your own reusable bottle, which is usually larger than the provided bottles, you can fill up and head out for the day with no cost to you or the environment. It is always best to avoid taking the free bottles but this may not always be easy for some!
I would recommend taking a 1 litre bottle per person while travelling. Stainless Steel bottles are high on my recommendation list since taking a plastic bottle (the Tupperware version or the similar hard plastic versions) may easily crack or break if you fall, slip or just plain forget it is there and throw your backpack on it.
I have also used my 1 litre stainless steel bottle as a hot water bottle while travelling around and felt ill and needed a warm pack. It was easy to put the hot water in, wrap in my travel towel and relax.
You will find the bottle to be immensely handy and necessary, plus you feel so much better about being able to avoid the expense of buying bottled water all day every day while away. Saving that money to have amazing experiences is more important!
BOILING THE WATER
Boiling water is your very first option when travelling.
It has been established that boiling water is a very effective way to kill bacteria and parasites within the water(though it must be noted that boiling water will not remove any toxic metals or synthetic contaminants).
If you are near sea level or at sea level, then you should bring the water to a rolling boil for a minimum of one minute. I would recommend boiling any water you want to drink that is not potable for approx 3-5 minutes to be on the safe side. The higher the altitude it is also said to boil the water for longer. Allow the water to cool to room temperature and then you will have potable drinking water.
This sounds a lot worse than it really is! Basically this is just using either chlorine or iodine to chemically kill any bacteria or parasites within the water.
These are readily available to purchase from pharmacies, travel/adventure stores and from camping equipment stores.
It is always best to follow the instructions on the packets as they all work differently depending on the water you have available. Make sure you read all the instructions before proceeding but this is a very easy way to treat water while travelling.
I usually combine boiling water that has been cooled and then adding iodine tablets for a double whammy if I am very paranoid and unsure.
Both chlorine and iodine are available in liquid and tablet form (Table 2-30). Iodine has physiologic activity (it is used by the thyroid), so WHO recommends limiting iodine water disinfection to a few weeks of emergency use. It is not recommended in persons with unstable thyroid disease, known iodine allergy, or pregnancy (because of the potential effect on the fetal thyroid).
Before travelling to areas with poor water quality, seek medical advice from your doctor to select the best way to purify your water especially if you are considering chemical disinfection.
ULTRA VIOLET LIGHT
UV purification works as the ultraviolet energy emitted by the light is absorbed by the cells of the microbe, preventing cell enzymes from ‘reading’ its DNA. Without intact DNA, microbes can’t reproduce to make you sick.
There are now items on the market called “Steri-Pens” that use this UV lights to actually purify your water. You simply put the pen into the water and allow it to do it’s thing. Make sure you follow the instructions to avoid making mistakes.
I have never personally used a Steri-Pen but have heard good things but you will need to remember they require AA batteries to run and you should always take adequate stock of these if you are using the Steri-Pen as your first option for water purification.
FILTER THE WATER
In some places you travel, the water from the tap is potable but not necessarily very nice tasting. In the U.S.A the water can be used from the tap but some people prefer to filter the water. There are many bottles on the market now that offer a carbon filter within the bottle itself, so no need to lug around the old Brita Filters or resort to buying bottled water.
KEEP IN MIND
Knowing your options for how to prepare safe water for yourself is vital while travelling, but if you are ever unsure always seek advice before drinking tap water or purchase bottled water if there are limited options.
Keep in mind while travelling around that relying on bottled water as your only option for water is NOT always the best idea. Some people in many countries have developed bad practices of refilling bottles of water from a tap and on-selling them as “purified bottled water”.
This is a terrible practice and you should always check the bottle, cap and ring for tampering or traces of it being opened. Even plastic seals across the caps can be remade so make sure you purchase bottled water only if looks as if it the real thing.
Have fun out there and if you have any other tips or tricks, let us know!