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main square used to be drinking water, but now, sadly it is a repository for rubbish and the well which it served has been replaced by a drinking fountain fed from the mains water supply.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

  • Survey of 600 people finds some parents regret having offspring for same reason

    People worried about the climate crisis are deciding not to have children because of fears that their offspring would have to struggle through a climate apocalypse, according to the first academic study of the issue.

    The researchers surveyed 600 people aged 27 to 45 who were already factoring climate concerns into their reproductive choices and found 96% were very or extremely concerned about the wellbeing of their potential future children in a climate-changed world. One 27-year-old woman said: “I feel like I can’t in good conscience bring a child into this world and force them to try and survive what may be apocalyptic conditions.”

    Continue reading...

  • The best of the week’s wildlife pictures from around the world, including desert-dwelling sheep and a plant that has evolved to hide from humans

    Continue reading...

  • With nearly 400,000 crew members trapped at sea by Covid restrictions, it’s time for retailers like Amazon to help press for key worker status

    This weekend is one of the planet’s busiest shopping sprees, with an estimated £66bn to be spent in the UK alone over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, much of it online. Yet as shoppers click and wait to collect, there is a crisis at sea among the people whose work brings us these goods.

    It is no exaggeration to say that without shipping the global marketplace would collapse. It is responsible for the movement of 90% of all global trade. Even in normal circumstances, more than a million seafarers labour daily on the vessels that make up the world cargo fleet, their work barely noticed by consumers. As Covid-19 has ravaged the world, they have helped keep the global economy functioning, unseen.

    Continue reading...

  • Amitav Ghosh, Margaret Atwood and Emma Thompson are among 20 activists and cultural figures to speak at Writers Rebel event

    Writers and activists including Emma Thompson, Margaret Atwood and Amitav Ghosh are to speak about their favourite endangered animals as part of a remembrance day for lost species.

    The snow leopard, pangolin and vaquita porpoise are among the endangered animals that will be championed by participants at the free online event, On the Brink, organised by Writers Rebel, which is part of Extinction Rebellion.

    Continue reading...

  • Public accounts committee says ignorance, incompetence and weak oversight to blame

    The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has a perpetual lack of knowledge about the state and location of waste on the 17 sites it is responsible for making safe, a powerful committee of MPs has found.

    This results from decades of poor record keeping and weak government oversight, the MPs said. Combined with a “sorry saga” of incompetence and failure, this has left taxpayers footing the bill for “astronomical sums”, they said.

    Continue reading...

  • Industry promotes materialism and lifts sales of climate-harming products, study says

    Advertising needs to be controlled and changed to reduce its impact on the climate, according to a report released as consumers prepare to spend billions on Black Friday.

    The report by the New Weather Institute thinktank and the charity We are Possible examines how advertising indirectly contributes to climate change and the ecological emergency.

    Continue reading...

  • The winning images of the 2020 British Ecological Society photography competition, taken by international ecologists and students, celebrate the diversity of the planet’s flora and fauna

    Continue reading...

  • An investigation into the Queen Hind sinking a year ago is yet to be published and the live export trade continues to boom

    Romania has been accused of “complete silence” over its investigation into the sinking of the Queen Hind last November, which resulted in the deaths of more than 14,000 sheep.

    Rescuers who rushed to the sinking Queen Hind vessel, which left Romania’s Black Sea port of Midia a year ago, managed to save just 228 sheep out of a total 14,600, but only 180 ultimately survived the ordeal.

    Romania’s prime minister Ludovic Orban vowed on television last year to end live exports in the “medium-term”. However, since the Queen Hind disaster more than 2 million live animals have been exported from Romania – mostly to north Africa and the Middle East.

    Romanian authorities have claimed the vessel was 10% below capacity and that the animals were “clinically healthy and fit for transport”. But campaigners say the vessel was overloaded and this ultimately led to the thousands of sheep drowning in the Black Sea.

    The only information to emerge since the sinking has been the discovery of secret compartments onboard with dead animals inside, by the company hired to remove the ship from the water.

    Romania’s transport ministry told the Guardian this week that investigations are concluded and said a summary of the report will be published on the ministry’s website. They also said that the purpose of the technical investigation was to establish maritime safety issues and to prevent future accidents, and “not to establish guilt in people involved”.

    EU law stipulates that investigations into maritime accidents should be reported in full within 12 months, but that if a final report is not possible in that timeframe, then “an interim report shall be published within 12 months of the date” of the event.

    Continue reading...

  • Report suggests tree growth will not store nearly as much carbon as scientists hoped

    Global heating appears to be making trees drop their leaves earlier, according to new research, confounding the idea that warmer temperatures delay the onset of autumn.

    The finding is important because trees draw huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the air and therefore play a key role in managing the climate.

    Continue reading...

  • Oyster Clough, Derbyshire: A decade ago, I wouldn’t have mentioned it in print, but now the number of visitors has soared

    The true start of winter is often debated, but none of the definitions I know include mid-November. That didn’t stop a razor-edged northerly blowing off the moors from knifing me in the ribs. I stopped to put on my spare jacket, but it seemed hopelessly unequal to the job. “Is that all you brought?” my companion asked. Luckily for me, by the time we emerged from the woods above the Snake Inn into bright sunshine, the wind had moderated. But the sky above was still cold-forged with that intense blue of winter, tinged pink in places in the low-angled light.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds

Feed not found.