Water, The Most Vital Human Resource

Published in Health

Hvar is blessed in having a very good water supply. That said, piped water is not yet available across the whole island. The eastern villages between Jelsa and Sućuraj still rely on wells and cisterns filled by rainwater, although projects to connect them to the mains supply by stages are in hand, and have been since about 2010.

In past times, every town and village on Hvar had its own water supply, with a main well (bunar) or rainwater cistern (gustirnakišnica) serving the village as a whole, and individual cisterns for families and their animals. Some large cisterns had a carefully constructed collar of stone called a pjover (from the Italian piovere = to rain) round the edge to direct rainwater into the cavity. Family houses often had ingenious water-flow channels to make sure as much rainwater as possible was directed from the roof to the nearest cistern.

The stream called Vir was the main source of drinking water for Jelsa in Austro-Hungarian times, and still serves as a secondary source in present times. Similarly the Slatina stream which runs along the side of Jelsa's main square used to be drinking water, but now, sadly it is a repository for rubbish and the well which it served has been replaced by a drinking fountain fed from the mains water supply.

The cistern which served Petar Hektorović's fortified villa in Stari Grad bears the inscription 'draga voda' ('dear water'). Water is indeed to be cherished. A supply of fresh water is essential to good health. Without it, crops and kidneys fail, and human lives are lost.

Life in Dalmatia was always tough during the long hot months of summer, especially if the winter rainfall was less than usual. That all changed in 1986, when Hvar was connected to a main source of drinking water from the Cetina river on the mainland by undersea pipes which crossed the island of Brač to reach Hvar. This guaranteed most of the island a year-round supply of high quality fresh water. However, many islanders kept their wells and cisterns functioning even they were no longer essential, mainly to water gardens and vegetable patches. It is a wise precaution to maintain an independent water supply, in case the mains supply is cut off for some reason or (God forbid!) becomes polluted. A lot of people prefer the taste of the fresh rainwater from their cistern to that from the mains supply. Cisterns used for drinking water are usually cleaned out periodically, and the water should be checked for purity by the Water Board.

The mainland connexion was radically upgraded in 2013 with modern bigger pipes to provide greater capacity, as the island was in danger of demand outstripping supply. The final connexion of the pipe from Brač to Hvar was completed on 30th June 2013, the day before Croatia's accession to the European Union. The Director of Hvar's Water Board (Hvarski vodovod) Ivan Grgičević described the moment as a historic one, equal to that when the island's water system was first connected to the mainland in 1986. See the video below for highlights of the complex engineering works that the upgrade entailed (narrative in Croatian). When water was scarce, one can understand that people used it sparingly. Now that most of the island has sufficient for normal needs, water should still be used with discretion, certainly not wasted.

Drinking water is essential for life. In olden times - not that long ago - adult Dalmatians habitually drank bevanda at mealtimes (red wine diluted with water), while children drank water. Nowadays adults still drink the bevanda, but children are offered a vast choice of soft drinks, including concentrated fruit juices, flavoured fizzy drinks, so-called 'energy' drinks and teas. Water does not feature high on the list, so a lot of children are growing up without developing a taste for water. Herbal teas are often recommended for babies in preference to water. Consuming flavoured drinks leads children to dislike the taste of water, and so refuse to drink it. But most of the flavoured drinks on sale are not healthy options, and in recent years many countries have introduced legislation to discourage and limit their sale to children.

There is no substitute for water as the basis for adequate hydration. We get fluids from other sources, including foods, but they do not replace the need for water. Water drinking is a habit that must be encouraged. There is debate about how much water one should drink during the day. In my view, it's not a question of drinking a certain quantity, but rather of keeping the body systems well hydrated and not allowing them to become depleted. As a basic guideline, I recommend drinking a small glass of plain water, perhaps 2 dcl, at the start of the day, and then again at regular intervals, perhaps every hour, until the early evening. Feeling thirsty means you are already dehydrating, so you need to drink to prevent thirst. In hot climates, you need to drink more water, and if humidity is high you may need mineral supplements such as salt tablets as well. Active sports and physical activities such as gardening or labouring will increase your need for water. Because their heat control mechanisms are different from adults', children dehydrate at a faster rate, and should be given water throughout the day. Every summer on Hvar, children are admitted to the emergency department and put on fluid- and salt-replacing drips, because they have dehydrated - a problem which simply would not arise if they drank enough water while playing and swimming in the heat.

Not drinking enough water can lead to various problems, some of them serious. Dehydration can cause calf cramps, especially at night, and dry skin. It can contribute to muscle strains or tears in the legs or back during exercise or physical activities, also kidney stones and a variety of problems relating to the circulatory system, including blood clots. Telltale signs of dehydration include dry lips, dry skin, dark-coloured urine and a tendency to muscle cramps. A simple test is to lie on your stomach and bend and straighten one knee quickly five or six times: if the hamstrings on the back of your thigh cramp up, you are probably dehydrated.

If you are not used to drinking plain water all day, every day, now is the time to start! Do not try to drink a lot in one go, it is better to drink little and often. Also, if you are drinking water regularly, you need to maintain your body's salt levels to avoid hyponatraemia, which can cause many symptoms including unconsciousness or even death. Assuming your diet consists of freshly prepared food, add a little salt to your main meal, do not avoid salt, as is sometimes advised. If you carry water with you when travelling, use a glass bottle carried in a plastic bag in case of breakage. Plastic bottles may contribute to cancers, and are known to harm the thyroid gland, especially in pregnant women and newborn babies. If you cannot avoid using a plastic bottle, do not re-use it. Depending on where you live, you may choose to filter your drinking water. Some places in the world have an adequate supply of drinking-water, but it is not as pure as it could and should be.

Hvar's high quality drinking water is part of the island's opportunities for healthy living. We have to hope that the younger generations learn to enjoy this resource, to use it wisely and to conserve and improve on it for the generations to come.

LinksHvarski Vodovod  - Hvar Water Board, website in Croatian

http://www.who.int/topics/drinking_water/en/ World Health Organisation

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-drink/ European Commission

© Vivian Grisogono 2013

UPDATE, July 2016

Eco Hvar is kept informed of the tests on Hvar's water supply, which are carried out regularly. As the water is not tested for herbicide contamination (this is rarely done anywhere in the world), in 2015 Eco Hvar sent a sample of tap water to a Spanish laboratory. Happily, the result came back completely clear. There's no room for complacency where drinking water is concerned, so it is reassuring to know that every effort is made to keep our water safe at all times.

 

Media

You are here: Home health articles Water, The Most Vital Human Resource

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Exclusive: Nearly half existing facilities will need to close prematurely to limit heating to 1.5C, scientists say

    Nearly half of existing fossil fuel production sites need to be shut down early if global heating is to be limited to 1.5C, the internationally agreed goal for avoiding climate catastrophe, according to a new scientific study.

    The assessment goes beyond the call by the International Energy Agency in 2021 to stop all new fossil fuel development to avoid the worst impacts of global heating, a statement seen as radical at the time.

    Continue reading...

  • Promises of jobs and investment are doing little to convince a remote Lincolnshire community to agree to hosting the country’s nuclear waste

    On the unspoilt Lincolnshire coast, where dog walkers enjoy the five miles of golden sandy beach and families take holidays in the caravan parks beyond the dunes, the efforts of British politicians to persuade the public nuclear energy is green, safe and clean do not seem to be gaining traction.

    A skull glowers down from the sand dunes on to Mablethorpe Beach, a portent of death and destruction, and a throwback to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament protests of the 1980s.

    Continue reading...

  • Reasons behind drop include people being more conscious of energy use during cost of living crisis, says CPRE

    Light pollution has decreased as a result of fears over soaring energy costs, a survey by the countryside charity CPRE has suggested.

    Stargazers have been enjoying the best view of the night sky since 2011, as light pollution sharply dropped during the pandemic lockdowns and the levels continue to fall despite restrictions having been lifted.

    Continue reading...

  • Three Shires Head, Peak District: Red kite, peregrine and buzzard, playing together in the sky above – it’s a joyous sight

    This is an intriguing landscape, not just because it’s a rare point of union for three counties: Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire. As much as it’s a real place, it exists as a powerful meme on social media, and come the bank holiday, the double stream through arched bridges, with its modest white-water fall of about 3 metres, is thronged with people.

    I’m not sure exactly why they come or what exists between the ears of some of those motivated to visit. Recently I was stopped by a carful of five arriving from Cambridge, who asked for directions. When I told them that they would have to park half a mile away and walk, they drove off, never to return. However, I then went on to have an experience at Three Shires Head that suggested there is something magical at play here.

    Continue reading...

  • Despite the magnitude of Australia’s environmental decline, we still have the opportunity and ability to turn things around

    It’s 1996 and I’m in my last year of undergraduate studies at James Cook University, in Townsville. World coral expert Prof Terry Hughes cautions our class that on current trajectories, climate change and coral bleaching threaten destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. In another class, rainforest expert Prof Stephen Williams shares his concerns that increasing temperatures will force highly climate-sensitive animals – including the golden bowerbird and lemuroid ringtail possum – to move higher and higher up mountains in the ancient rainforests of the Wet Tropics, to cling to survival in cooler refuges. Of course, once trapped on a mountain top, there’s nowhere further for many wildlife species to retreat to.

    As an optimistic 21-year-old, their warnings are unsettling, but I’m not panicked. I’m still hopeful science will help provide answers to the challenges at hand, and naively, I trust that our political leaders will act swiftly. In doing so we’ll avoid any genuinely dire outcomes for the wildlife and ecosystems so many Australians, and indeed people globally, hold so dear. After all, we are entwined with and completely dependent upon nature, so allowing its demise would be genuinely reckless, right?

    Continue reading...

  • More than 200 barriers were taken down last year, helping to restore fish migration routes and boost biodiversity and climate resilience

    At least 239 barriers, including dams and weirs, were removed across 17 countries in Europe in 2021, in a record-breaking year for dam removals across the continent.

    Spain led the way, with 108 structures taken out of the country’s rivers. “Our efforts to expand dam removals across Europe are gathering speed,” said Pao Fernández Garrido, project manager for the World Fish Migration Foundation, who helped produce Dam Removal Europe’s annual report.

    Continue reading...

  • Last November in Glasgow, countries agreed to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial averages. Six months on, the world has changed, with the war in Ukraine, high energy prices and the cost of living crisis threatening to derail us from achieving our climate goals. Ian Sample speaks to the Guardian’s environment correspondent, Fiona Harvey, about what promises are still on the table and what else needs to be done to address the climate emergency as we approach the next conference, Cop27.

    Archive: Channel 4 News, Deutsche Welle, PBS News, 9 News Australia, ABC News, Euronews, COP26

    Continue reading...

  • Ministers instead urged to focus on reducing flights and halting airport expansion to cut carbon emissions

    The UK government’s “jet zero” plan to eliminate carbon emissions from aviation relies on unproven or nonexistent technology and “sustainable” fuel, and is likely to result in ministers missing their legally binding emissions targets, according to a report.

    The study from Element Energy, which has worked for the government and the climate change committee in the past, says instead of focusing on such unreliable future developments, ministers should work to reduce the overall number of flights and halt airport expansion over the next few years.

    Continue reading...

  • Analysis: Highs likely to reach mid-30s celsius in Spain and France, 10C above normal, and may break 40C

    The exceptional heatwave conditions across parts of India and Pakistan over the past few weeks have been in the news – although the region has in fact endured extreme heat since March. Through the next few days, although nowhere near as extreme as in India and Pakistan, anomalous warmth will be affecting large portions of western Europe in the first significant heat of spring.

    Throughout April, large parts of Europe experienced below-normal temperature trends, with winds often emanating from a north-easterly direction. However, over the past week or so, weather patterns have rearranged to encourage more of a south or south-westerly feed of air across Europe, and temperatures have been picking up as a result.

    Continue reading...

  • Friends of the Earth says there will be no market for Whitehaven coal as Europe’s steelmakers move to ‘green steel’

    A new coalmine proposed for Cumbria is likely to be redundant before it even opens because the steelmakers that are its target market are moving so rapidly away from fossil fuels, analysis from green campaigners claims.

    Steelmakers across Europe are moving to “green steel”, which uses renewable energy and modern techniques to avoid the need for coking coal of the type that the proposed mine in Whitehaven would produce.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds