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What you need to know about water

1. How much water do you need?
For most people, not eight glasses. A kidney specialist and a professor at Dartmouth Medical School, spent nearly a year searching for evidence to back up the “eight glasses a day” dictum — and came up dry. They didn’t find a single scientific report supporting the recommendation. So how much should you drink?
Well ... it all depends on your size and activity level. You can tell if you’re getting enough by looking at the color of your urine (pleasant, huh?). A light lemon color means you’re well hydrated or, just follow your thirst - listen to your body when it tells us we need water.

2. Do other beverages count?
Yes ... Juice, milk, soda, and other liquids also help keep you hydrated. Even caffeinated beverages — long blamed for siphoning fluid from our bodies — seem to count. In a study conducted by the Center for Human Nutrition, subjects were given plain water or a combination of water and noncaffeinated soda, caffeinated soda, or coffee. No matter what they drank, they all stayed equally hydrated. Food is another ample source of liquid. Fruits and vegetables can be up to 95 percent water.

3. Is it possible to drink too much?
Possible, but not probable. Overhydration gets a lot of press, but it’s usually the result of marathon runners who “water load,” fraternity pledges who are force-fed liquids, or partyers who have taken Ecstasy, which can spur extreme thirst while suppressing signals of satiety. In a healthy, moderately active person, the body’s water-balance system is so sensitive and accurate that water intoxication is highly unlikely.

4. How safe is tap water?
Generally, it’s very safe. The U.S. has some of the cleanest drinking water in the world, and 9 out of 10 public water systems meet federal health and safety standards, according to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). But remember, the quality of water varies depending on its source, treatment, and delivery system, as well as the plumbing it flows through.

5. Should you test your water?
Even if the report is reassuring, you might want to test your water for lead and arsenic, both of which are potentially harmful to your or your children’s health. Lead contamination can come from the plumbing in people’s homes (most often in houses built before 1986), so it isn’t accurately represented in water-quality reports. Arsenic is common in both well water and municipal water collected from wells. If you’re worried about unregulated contaminants — if there’s a factory upstream, for instance, or someone in your household has a weak immune system— you might want to test for microorganisms and other pollutants.

6. Do you need to use a filter?
If you learn that your water has lead, arsenic, or other contaminants, yes. And if you’re concerned about your water quality for any reason, you should buy one. Filtering tap water is affordable and can remove everything from potentially dangerous chemicals and microbes to foul-tasting additives. As for what kind is best, that depends on what you’re trying to filter out. If lead is a problem, shop for a filter certified by the nonprofit lab NSF International. If you’re concerned about microorganisms, buy an “absolute one-micron” filter, which is designed to strain out tiny germs.

7. Is bottled better?
Probably not. “Bottled water isn’t necessarily any better, purer, or safer than city tap water. Though the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has safety standards for bottled water similar to those the EPA sets for tap water, enforcement is often lacking. Similarly, most states have standards but not the resources to enforce them. Despite the name or the picture on the label, there’s no guarantee that bottled water comes from a snow-dusted Alpine peak or a gurgling forest spring. If the label says, “From a municipal source” or “From a community water system,” it’s plain old tap water. If you prefer bottled water, choose a brand that belongs to the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), an industry group that requires member companies — including Arrowhead, Dannon, Evian, Perrier, and Wal-Mart, and dozens more — to meet standards stricter than those of the federal government.

8. Does temperature matter?
It makes no difference to your body whether you sip cold or warm beverages, both are equally well absorbed. But don’t use hot water straight from the tap, as it pulls more lead from pipes than cold does. And let the water run for at least 60 seconds, lead levels are highest in water that’s been sitting in pipes.

9. Can water go bad?
Yes ... or, rather, things in it can. A study in the Canadian Journal of Public Health found high levels of bacteria (in nearly two-thirds of cases, high enough to exceed safety limits) in water bottles that were reused without being sterilized. Wash your bottle in hot, soapy water or in a dishwasher, or buy a bottle meant for constant use that’s sturdy and easy to clean. Place bottled water in a cool, dark place, since heat and light can damage the containers. Treated and stored appropriately, water can do the job it’s designed for: keeping your body healthy


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