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main square used to be drinking water, but now, sadly it is a repository for rubbish and the well which it served has been replaced by a drinking fountain fed from the mains water supply.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

  • Slow progress on 2015 Paris agreement comes as scientists warn of need to get on track

    Negotiators at the climate conference in Poland have inched closer to an outcome, as the official deadline for finishing a deal ran out.

    The conference was meant to approve a rulebook which would govern how nations put into action the goals set in the landmark Paris agreement of 2015, when the world resolved to hold global warming to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels, with an aspiration to limit temperature rises to no more than 1.5C.

    Continue reading...

  • Small bits of plastic packaging from waste food make their way into animal feed as part of the UK’s permitted recycling process

    Plastic traces in animal feed could pose a risk to human health and urgently need to be the subject of more research, experts have told the Guardian.

    Their comments came after British farmer Andrew Rock contacted the Guardian, having noticed plastic shreds in his animal feed. Rock was told by the suppliers that this was a legal part of the recycling process that turns waste food, still packaged, into animal feed.

    Continue reading...

  • Report finds more than 95% chance of hydrological changes to Belyando River Basin from mines including Carmichael

    Coalmines planned in the Galilee Basin – including Adani’s Carmichael mine – understated the likely impacts on surrounding water resources, a federal government scientific report has found.

    The bioregional assessment report into the cumulative impact of coalmine proposals was published quietly last week. It was compiled by experts from the CSIRO, Geosciences Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology and the federal environment department.

    The report modelled information from seven of 17 proposed coalmines in the Galilee and found there was a greater than 95% chance that they would cause hydrological changes to the Belyando River Basin.

    Continue reading...

  • Nascent industry aims to reduce environmental impact of beef production

    The first steak grown from cells in the lab and not requiring the slaughter of a cow has been produced in Israel.

    The meat is not the finished article: the prototype costs $50 for a small strip, and the taste needs perfecting, according to its makers. But it is the first meat grown outside an animal that has a muscle-like texture similar to conventional meat.

    Continue reading...

  • Australia’s Mary River turtle went viral after it was named on an endangered species list – and Cate Blanchett even voiced a puppet of it. But was that enough to save it?

    It was “the punk turtle” – an eccentric and yet strangely human-looking reptile with a vivid green mohican, fleshy “fingers” under its chin and the ability to breathe through its genitals. The Mary River turtle went viral in April when pictures of the hitherto little-known creature were shared around the world after it was placed 30th on the Zoological Society of London’s Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered list for reptiles. The rating, which guides conservation prioritiesfor at-risk species, was compiled by Rikki Gumbs. He says that turtle fascination “went absolutely crazy” after its publication, as he fielded calls from journalists around the world. Reptiles are often overlooked but the connection many felt for the animal does not surprise Gumbs. “It’s the least these amazing reptiles deserve,” he says. “Once people can see how incredible and unique they are, it’s not surprising they are drawn to them.”

    The turtle became endangered because it was widely collected for the pet trade in the 1960s and 70s. Such collecting is outlawed now but the turtle faces a new threat. It is only found on a relatively small part of the Mary River, in Queensland, Australia, and is imperilled by the loss and degradation of its habitat. Non-native plants prevent it laying eggs in sandy river banks; non-native foxes and dogs predate it.

    Continue reading...

  • Tony Rinaudo’s regeneration technique, developed in west Africa 30 years ago, has helped bring back forest over 6m hectares

    Through the cacophony of the UN’s global climate talks, an Australian farmer is quietly spreading his plan to reforest the world.

    Over more than 30 years in west Africa, Tony Rinaudo has regenerated more than 6m hectares – an area nearly as large as Tasmania. His farmer-managed natural regeneration technique is responsible for 240m trees regrowing across that parched continent.

    Continue reading...

  • Chile and Costa Rica thought to be considering alternative bids after Brazil withdrew offer

    Britain is bidding to host the UN climate change conference in 2020, the biggest since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015, as part of the government’s aim to be seen as a green leader.

    The conference will mark a vital deadline for countries to comply with their commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and move on to tougher targets for the decade to 2030, and so it is likely to be a fractious affair.

    Continue reading...

  • Exclusive: A secretive organisation based in a German village has amassed one of the world’s largest collections of rare parrots. How did Martin Guth, a former nightclub manager, persuade governments to authorise the export of so many endangered species?

    • Australia gave endangered birds to secretive German ‘zoo’, ignoring warnings

    It’s an unlikely spot for a zoo – down an unmade, dusty road, amid a wood to the east of the German capital Berlin.

    But here in the village of Tasdorf, hundreds of the world’s most endangered and rare parrot species are said to be housed at the headquarters of the Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP).

    Continue reading...

  • The continent’s largest land mammal plays crucial role in spiritual lives of the tribes

    On 5,000 hectares of unploughed prairie in north-eastern Montana, hundreds of wild bison roam once again. But this herd is not in a national park or a protected sanctuary – they are on tribal lands. Belonging to the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of Fort Peck Reservation, the 340 bison is the largest conservation herd in the ongoing bison restoration efforts by North America’s Indigenous people.

    The bison – or as Native Americans call them, buffalo – are not just “sustenance,” according to Leroy Little Bear, a professor at the University of Lethbridge and a leader in the bison restoration efforts with the Blood Tribe. The continent’s largest land mammal plays a major role in the spiritual and cultural lives of numerous Native American tribes, an “integrated relationship,” he said.

    Continue reading...

  • Prospects for species look dire as federal science body finds that only one of the country’s 16 populations is believed to be stable

    Half of Canada’s chinook salmon are endangered, with nearly all other populations in precarious decline, according to a new report, confirming fears that prospects for the species remain dire.

    The reportby the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada concluded that eight of the country’s 16 populations are considered endangered, four are threatened, one is of special concern and the health of two remain unknown.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds