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Drinking Water Abroad

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 9 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Water Drinking Water Safe Water

The golden rule of drinking water abroad is "when in doubt - don't." Don't drink any tap water that you have not specifically confirmed is safe for human consumption. Pollution and waterborne diseases mean that unless tap water has been purified, it could lead to discomfort at the very least.

The good news is that even if the tap water is non-potable (unsafe to drink), you have a variety of options while travelling abroad including boiling your water, bringing a water purification system, and switching to bottled water for the duration.

Think about your plans for drinking water abroad before you travel because to get in the recommended eight glasses per day, you'll need to be ready from the start!

Non-potable Water

The United Kingdom is very lucky to have clean, safe water on demand. Many of the countries you visit during your gap year may not be so lucky. High risk areas for non-potable or unsafe tap water include: India, Africa, Central and South America, Russia and its former satellite nations and Asia and Southeast Asia.

Non-potable water is water that has not been treated to remove pollution, waterborne diseases, infectious agents, excess minerals and more. Without this treatment, no authority can approve it as safe to drink.

Remember, when in doubt, don't drink the water. Also don't; use tap water for making ice, don't drink anything served with iced cubes, don't mix powdered drinks or medicine with tap water, don't eat raw fruit or vegetables that may have been rinsed in tap water and finally use bottled water to brush your teeth with.

Boiling Water

Boiling water serves to purify water because it kills off any disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites.

Before boiling, make sure there is no visible dirt or foreign objects in your water and then bring it to a rolling boil for at least five minutes. Using a pot or kettle are the most efficient options for boiling.

Remember that the container in which you will be storing the boiled water should be sterilised as well.

Water Purification Systems

Most commercial water purification systems are meant to be installed directly into a tank of water or a tap, but there are options for travelling.
  • The SteriPen can purify 16 oz of water in less than a minute.
  • The Miox Travel Water Purifier can purify up to four litres of water at a time.
  • The Katadyn Water Bottle can purify from any fresh water source in the world.
  • Micropur Purification Tablets require only 30 minutes to neutralise cryptosporidium, bacteria and viruses.
  • Potable Aqua tablets have been used by militaries around the world for over 50 years.
  • In a pinch, iodine will purify water though it will also leave a residual taste that most find unpleasant.

Bottled Water

Perhaps the easiest way to identify drinking water abroad is to simply opt for bottled water, yet this option also requires careful selection. Before purchasing bottled water try and find a labelled brand you recognise and make sure that the bottle you purchase is sealed, a good idea is to select fizzy water to be sure that it has not simply come from a tap. If you can not find any bottled water to meet your standards, natural fruit juice is a great alternative.

Finding safe drinking water abroad can be tricky. If you are opting for bottled water, consider purchasing multiple bottles at once to ensure that you have enough when needed. If you are hoping to use a water purification system, keep it in your daypack at all times. If you plan to boil water, check that you have all of the supplies you will need. Regardless of the method you choose, strive to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day to stay hydrated, and even more if you are particularly active or in a hot climate.

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