Water is undeniably an essential part of our life as well as body composition. Each and every part of our body, ranging from cells, tissues to vital organs, depend highly on the water to function efficiently. Also, all living beings can survive up to several weeks without food, but only a few days without water.

You might find it interesting to know that, on average, 60% of an adult’s body weight is composed of water, from 31 % in bones to 83% in the lungs. Also, the human body constantly tends to lose water while breathing, sweating, and through the release of urine and feces. So, we need to make sure that the lost fluids are replenished in a timely manner to keep your body hydrated.

Given the key role and importance of water in our daily lives, we need to understand the sources, characteristics, and importance of water. It is very important to understand the characteristics of water that you use on a daily basis and where it is sourced from.

Since water is readily available these days, we often fail to think about where our drinking water is sourced from. In this article, we will be providing you with comprehensive information regarding the sources, characteristics, and the importance of safe drinking water.

Table of Contents

Sources, characteristics, and the importance of safe drinking water

Sources of Drinking Water

The earth has an abundant supply of water. When we say abundant, we mean approximately 333 million cubic miles abundant. This number might feel like a lot, but keep in mind that 96% of this is seawater. Is seawater drinkable? For the remaining 4%, most of it is formed by ice and glaciers. Our above-ground supply, such as rivers, lakes, and so on, makes up only about 1.2% of the total supply. The two primary sources of our drinking water are groundwater and surface water.

1. Ground Water

Groundwater, as the name suggests, refers to the water located below the earth’s surface. This water is available within pores and spaces inside rocks. In the United States, 78% of all community water systems utilize this groundwater.

Water generally accumulates under water-bearing permeable rocks or within rock fractures. These areas where the water accumulates are known as aquifers. Groundwater is accessed by drilling wells near these known aquifers. Despite being underground, it is naturally pure. However, in some areas, due to human interference, this groundwater may have become contaminated.

2. Surface Water

Surface water refers to the water present in rivers, streams, lakes, and so on. Surface water can be categorized into perennial, ephemeral, and human-made. Perennial refers to the permanent and ever-present sources of water. Ephemeral refers to semi-permanent sources that only exist during some parts of the year. These can include small creeks, water holes, or lagoons. And finally, human-made sources include damns or artificially constructed wetlands.

Surface water is far more easily accessible and is vital for irrigation. Similarly, surface water is used to generate hydroelectric power by harnessing the flow of rivers. When the natural flow of a river or stream is not dependable, a reservoir may be built to maintain a constant supply.

Source of Drinking Water in the United States

In the United States, municipalities are responsible for public water supply. Over 85% of the general population depends on this supply for their daily water usage. The remaining population sources their water using private wells. Water is drawn from both surface and groundwater and has to meet certain cleanliness standards before being delivered to your homes.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) cooperates with these municipal suppliers to ensure these standards are met. They do this by assessing the quality of the sources, i.e., rivers, reservoirs, or groundwater.

Characteristics of Portable Water

Portable water is simply another term for water that is safe to drink. This water can refer primarily to the water that flows into your house. You might know where it’s the source, but how can you identify if it is safe to drink? Well, water with the following characteristics are recognized as portable water:

  • Portable water is colorless.
  • It is tasteless.
  • It is adequately filtered.
  • It is free from toxins, bacteria, and radioactive elements.
  • It is suitable for drinking.

How to Protect your Drinking Water Supply?

With climate change on the horizon, fears of droughts and water shortages are common. While your municipal water suppliers are taking care of your current water supply, what steps can you take to protect your drinking water supply? Not just water shortages, but there is also a fear of contamination. The following can be some of the steps you can take:

Ensuring Water Supplies are Free from Contamination

Water supplies can be contaminated by motor oil, pesticides, weed killers, household cleaners, and so on. You can do your part to avoid this by ensuring proper waste disposal on your end. When these common contaminants are poured down the drain or flushed, they will make their way to the sewer system. Make sure you don’t dispose any of these harsh chemicals on the ground.

Conserving Water

Since we have been enjoying easy access to water, we often fail to notice how much water we waste on a daily basis. In order to mitigate water wastage, some hotels these days offer the option to choose not to wash the towels every day. Similarly, you can switch to more water-efficient appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines to minimize water wastage. You can also get low-flow nozzles for your showers and make sure your faucets are turned off after usage.

Play an Active Role in the Community

In order to protect/preserve the drinking water supply, you can get involved in your local watershed association or local water supplier. They can help you get a better idea of what steps you can take to further protect your water supply. Playing an active role, you can work with your community members to educate others on the importance of preserving and promoting safe drinking water.

Importance of Safe Drinking Water

You might think the importance of safe drinking water is obvious. It keeps us alive, what could be more important than that? Well, you’d be surprised how many benefits of water go unnoticed. Some of these are listed as follows:

Relieves and Prevents Constipation

Safe drinking water can actually prevent many diseases. One of the common ailments people face is constipation. Clean drinking clean water is the best medicine for constipation as it helps ease your bowel movements. Very few people realize that drinking lots of water, clean water, is the ultimate solution for many health conditions ap[art from just constipation.

Enhances Physical Performance

Clean drinking water can replenish your energy like no other. It provides the strength that your cells need to heal and deliver the best performance. This is why athletes always carry a large water bottle to keep them at their peak.

Boosts Brain Function

Slower brain function can be associated with a lack of clean drinking water. Similarly, it can lead to dehydration which can be linked further with a loss in concentration, memory along with increased anxiety.

Prevents Kidney Stones

Drinking impure water can cause a myriad of stomach problems for you. However, drinking safe water can be extremely useful in the prevention of kidney stones. This prevention works by diluting the concentration of minerals, preventing the formation of clumps.

Promotes Weight Loss

Clean drinking water can be a great addition to your weight loss plan. It works by boosting your metabolic rate. Many studies have proved that water plays a major role in your weight loss plan. One of them concluded that people who drank half a liter of water before meals reported losing 44% more weight.

In summary,

Water is essential for everyone, be it human beings or plants. As such, it is a good idea to be informed about where this water comes from and how you can maintain this water supply. The two primary sources of our drinking water are either surface water or groundwater. Both of these go through necessary treatments before reaching your homes. Make sure you can do your part of conserve and protect your drinking water supply.

(Last Updated on June 18, 2020 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Nina Howell is a Rewenable Energy researcher and consultant based out of Houston, Texas Area. She earned her Master's Degree in Energy and Earth Resources from Austin Jackson School of Geosciences in 2010, and a Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Science from State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2008. Nina has been working in the energy sector since 2011. She worked as an Energy Supply Analyst from 2011 to 2017 in Bounce Energy and then as a Research and Energy Consultant at GE Renewable Energy from March 2017 to February 2020 . Nina is a mom of 2 beautiful children who are joy to her life. She strongly believes in eco-friendly living and is vocal about renewable energy, environmental issues, water crisis, and sustainable living.