Water that is suitable for human consumption is often called potable water or drinking water. We maintain many sources of drinking water because drinking from natural sources like rivers, while usually safe, can be very hazardous due to contaminants, both natural and man made ones like pollution.
The guidelines that make water officially safe vary between countries, but most developed countries have them. Some third world countries have no such laws or simply cannot enforce them due to overpopulation and shortage of water and water storage facilities, leading to health risks caused by drinking diseased or polluted water.
The World Health Organization sets international standards for water and other official bodies exist to keep travelers informed.
Drinking water is available from the tap in most countries, although people often buy water filters to get rid of anything picked up in the pipes as well as chemicals used by the government such as fluorides. Filters remove aluminium, alkaline, lime scale, bacteria, pesticides, lead, and other chemicals which may cause damage in the long term. Several types of filter exist that give information on what they do, and some exist to filter the causes of allergies.
The other option, of course, is bottled water that can be bought in most shops and provides a healthy alternative to buying bottles of sugary drinks. They are perceived as safer than tap water, as they are less open to contamination. Also, they tend to have some flavoring that it preferable to the taste of tap water.
However, there are criticisms of bottled water. Firstly, the amount of plastic bottles being used! With the huge demand for bottled water, all the bottles have to go somewhere.
Second is the fact that while people will happily switch from tap water to bottled, this removes some of the incentive to push local governments for better standards.
Lastly, there are health concerns even in bottled water: some companies simply reprocess tap water; some claim health benefits that are rarely proven; and often bottled water is lacking some of the naturally present beneficial chemicals in tap water like fluoride.
Water is very important for health and we are recommended to drink several glasses of water every day. Certainly no harm can come from choosing natural water over soft drinks.
John Gibb is the owner of drinking water guides. For more information on drinking water, visit his Web site at: http://www.drinking-water-guidance3k.info.© 2006 John Gibb
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