TED Conversations

Anna Gower

Piano teacher, Piano teacher

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What water do you drink where you live?

I am curious to get a shapshot of peoples lives. Drinking water is important to living a healthy life. I've been told drinking water varies around the world and I know it does but haven't heard directly from people what water they are drinking. I boil my drinking water and take it as tea. I live in Scotland and the drinking water quality is good. I don't buy bottled water to drink. I don't like drinking cold water. My water tastes a little metallic but is very soft. I'm proud of our water quality it has improved this year.

  • Sep 17 2012: In what probably adds up to hundreds of thousands of huge buildings in New York City, sink, bathtub, and toilet feeds, pressurized pipe feeds, often run constantly for years. Not often as much as an open faucet, but more than just a drip. The plumbing is so old, and many building owners, landlords, are so neglect that they don't replace and repair them. I can't imagine how much fresh water in the course of one day this must add up to running down the drains. Besides leaking drains. I've lived all over New York, and it's no exaggeration that I've seen water coming through ceilings from apartments on the floor above, ruining plaster, everywhere I've lived. I'm a carpenter, so it can often turn into work and income for me. It's just sad.
  • Sep 16 2012: I live in New York City, and the water comes down through a large aqueduct from large reservoirs in upstate New York. The tap water tastes fine to me, and I drink it. Many people do not. Ironically, in upstate New York, where I come from and also live sometimes, many towns now have problems with ground water wells and from reservoirs due to over development, what we call urban sprawl. In New York City, many people run their water for long periods of time, during cooking, cleaning, etc. Some people upstate are upset about that. Also, New York City is so massive that much of the plumbing in old buildings runs constantly on it's own. Drinking water is a huge problem around the world, and in many parts of America, such as Detroit and California, and I imagine many other places. In India, people who have dug their own wells for centuries are now forced to purchase "corporate" water. My parents taught me never to waste water, and wherever I am I am frugal with it, such as washing dishes by filling a pot with soapy water, washing them, and rinsing them all when I'm finished at once, and running the water slowly.
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      Sep 16 2012: Thanks Chris for your reply, I am beginning to see a small snapshot of the different ways people drink water around the world. As you can see by this thread. I don't understand that plumbing in old buildings runs constantly. Do you mean they have no off switch? Here in the UK down South for example around London in the summer there has been a shortage of water and people have to recycle the water around there homes. Like clean rinse water for dishes is used to clean really dirty dishes again then used to water the garden.
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    Sep 15 2012: Hi Anna,
    Interesting conversation!

    First of all, I am very grateful to have clean drinking water, which many people in our world do not have. I am in the northeast USA, near the Canadian border, and our small village has wells, and a water treatment facility. The water is pretty good with the least amount of chemicals needed to keep it healthy for drinking. A couple of the larger cities in the area have horrible tasting water which seems very overtreated with chemicals.

    Many friends and family in different towns have spring water, shallow wells and drilled wells, and when visiting them, I often get a supply of that water because I prefer NOT to put the chemicals in the body. I usually have a pot of water simmering on the wood stove in the winter, and supposedely, the chemicals evaporate?

    I do not generally use bottled water because it has been proven that often, it comes from a tap somewhere! I do use bottled water sometimes when traveling in areas where the water supply is non-existant, or not good.
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      Sep 15 2012: Thank you for your reply.

      Have you heard of the Jompy boiler you might like to use one. I am from Scotland and this is invented by a Scots but I have no connection with the product, so this is not self-promotion.

      Here is a link you might like for copy and paste


      I completely forgot about the Jompy until you mentioned you boil your water.

      The Jompy is about to be rolled out in Kenya and India from supermarkets, I could see it being sold here in the UK as well. I would like one. I hear if you have your electric, gas or other stove on the Jompy just goes over the ring and you boil water while cooking, like you pre-boil the water used to cook taties etc.

      Could you see this taking of in USA as well as other parts of the world.
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    Sep 15 2012: I live in Johannesburg. The water is good; I drink water from the taps. I hardly take bottled water.

    Back home in Akure, Nigeria, public water supply is erratic, so I drink from a borehole that pumps water into a giant tank, which is then passed through a filter before it goes into taps in the house.
    Pretty long process. There too, I hardly drink bottled water.
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      Sep 15 2012: Back home in New Zealand the remote houses have bore hole water. I remember drinking from them as a child, each bore hole tasted different. There was always stories in the papers of bore hole wars as one neighbour might drain the others neighbours water supply away. I have found alot of people don't drink bottled water I thought this would happen more. though I know this chat is unscientific.
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    Sep 15 2012: I am from Pakistan, our government have institutions to check the water quality but I never seen them while working. low level and middle class people drink the water which we get from the ground through domestic pumps and STILL ALIVE whereas upper class people have filtration plants at there homes or they drink bottled water. Honestly speaking about 95% of people in Pakistan do not have quality water to drink.

    In our small town we have made a filtration plant by ourselves which provides comparatively good drinking water.
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      Sep 15 2012: In Scotland on the smaller Isles like Isle of Coll and in very remote areas each individual house has to sort out there own drinking water supply as there is no infrastructure for supplied water from the authorities. My friend who lives on Coll has water pumped from a stream then it goes through 3 process of filtration, finishing with UV light sterilisation.
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        Sep 15 2012: Anna its good method to make water drinkable but in our country there is not a good system and I think UV light sterilization is not available anywhere in the country.
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          Sep 15 2012: Thank-you again for your reply. I felt I had to brush up on UV light sterilization. At the moment it requires power supply to run and mainly kills the bacteria and virus's in the water. It is paired with filtration systems. But the good thing about the units is they are small.
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      Sep 16 2012: It has taken me awhile to absorb your reply.

      From what you are saying you have a type of 3 tier drinking water system in Pakistan.
      1. The wealthy look after themselves.
      2. communities club together to create water opportunities for themselves
      3. Individuals take ground water.

      My friend who lives in really rural Scotland said these 3 ways of getting drinking water listed above is how drinking water is created.

      Thanks for your reply.
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        Sep 17 2012: Oh really! finally you got my point. :) Yap Anna in our country almost everything is divided for upper, middle and lower classes according to income. Although its not the part of conservation but I will like to tell you that even education in our country is divided into upper, middle and lower classes like wealthy people use to teach their children in expensive and well furnished schools whom syllabus is different than rest of the other private or public schools.
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          Sep 17 2012: Now I see from you sharing how drinking water is distributed in Pakistan that such an essential need for life, drinkable water becomes politicized. I'm slow on the uptake as this is obvious now. I remember hearing a story from Glasgow, the Labour or left wing council supported Spain and when the Spanish had a bad drought they hired an old oil tanker, converted it and filled it with drinking water and sent it to Andalucia, they did this 3 times in one summer. I'm not sure if the story is true but my friends used to go and stand along the river and watch the water leave for Spain and cheer it on.
  • Sep 14 2012: in Damascus, Syria water is delivered by a pipe system and it is mixed from several resources "basically groundwater" and some comes from an old river "Barada"
    Damascus is famous for water quality, but i'm afraid it is only a historical truth as the groundwater quality is really bad now due to the bad drainage system in the last 25 years. chloride is used intensively now

    water is available only few hours daily so we have to store enough for drinking "usually in small plastic tanks" and cleaning "almost 2 cubic meters daily in a metal tank on the roof of every house"
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      Sep 15 2012: After you store the water for drinking do you have to purify it more, before consumption. We also have chloride in Scotland it is a 100 year old tradition. Our problem is we have too much rain, alot of the water comes from lochs but the constant rain washes all the debris and crap off the hills into the lochs. I feel lucky to have the water we do here as I do not have to work for it daily like you do.

      How do you sterilize the small plastic tanks, do they need cleaning out often to stay clean?
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    Sep 14 2012: In Holland, Belgium, large parts of Germany and France water is taken both from rivers and from the ground beneath sand beds when possible. This water is purified following strict regulations about the amount of certain minerals and organic components it may contain.
    At this moment the list is much too short for the water can contain residues of medicine and other chemicals that no one is looking for.
    So it is clear and fresh water with a good taste but without guarantees to be absolutely healthy in the long run.

    Nothing worrying though because whatever it is if any it is less than we consume with meat, milk and vegetables.
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      Sep 15 2012: Are you supposed to laugh about the drinking fawcett, not easy to live with but it is really funny. No insult intended to the owners of the thirsty tap.
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    Sep 14 2012: I live by the Great Lakes and drink excellent tap water. The commute to work puts us on well water and I drink bottled water there. The well has too much of a metallic taste and I find myself drinking too much soda if I don't have bottled water.
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      Sep 15 2012: Is your well water sterilised with UV light, like is common now in Scotland where I live and New Zealand where I was born?
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        Sep 16 2012: I think it depends on whether the well is a municipal well or a private well. Most private wells do not sterile their water unless they buy a purification system. I believe municipals wells still chemically sterilize the water but I do not have data.

        In the US boil orders are rarely given as most municipal water is monitored and safe for consumption. Only if there is a loss in the water pressure where water could flow backwards is there a boil order, usually connected to a natural disaster.
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          Sep 16 2012: Thank-you, I have never heard of boil orders this is new to me. Here if our water is undrinkable the water board deliver pallets of bottled tap water and leave it at the top of our rural village. They don't issue boil orders here in Scotland. If you are elderly they deliver the water to your front door.
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    Sep 14 2012: Water in America is interesting, because each individual state has different regulations and agencies. Thus, growing up in New York I always drank the tap water... and here in California, it tastes terrible, so I drink Arizona Tea, and bottled water mostly.
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    Sep 14 2012: I live in Newcastle Australia. Most of our tap water is drawn from sand beds which capture rain water. It's about as pure as town water can be. It is much purer than any bottled water even with the chloriine and flouride added.
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      Sep 14 2012: Do you really mean they add fluoride to tap water and chloride?

      I'm astound.
      Down the sixties there was a debate here in Holland to add fluoride to tap water and this gave lots of upheaval for it served no purpose and it could influence the mental will of the people in a negative way. Chloride isn't necessary anymore and it shouldn't be with you if they treated the water properly.
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        Sep 15 2012: We have chloride in our water in Scotland, sometimes you can smell it. A chef told me to put the water in a jug and the chlorine gas will naturally filter out. Not a scientific approach but he uses this process before cooking. Our establishment say they are proud of there 100 year old tradition of adding chloride to the water. I just get on with drinking the water as I know how privelleged we are the water doesn't kill you outright.
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        Sep 16 2012: The flouride prevents tooth decay. Studies done at Australian universities indicate children that drink bottled water that has no flouride have higher levels of tooth decay. The resulting gum disease has been linked to heart disease in later l;ife. Low levels of chlorine are added as part of the treatment process but very little of it makes it through to the consumer. The residual amount stops bacteria multiplying in water that is accidentally contaminated by the consumer. (useing a dirty glass etc).
        I guess we still use sand beds because they produce alot of water very easily. They cover around 1000sqkm
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          Sep 17 2012: The claim that fluoride prevents tooth decay is just as feeble as that it's undermining the autonomy of the people.

          At that time in the sixties/seventies follow up studies showed that it had no effect at all and for those that believed fluoride to be beneficial they could take it with toothpaste or pills.

          As the following overview shows is that in the end, adding fluoride to tap water is rather harmful to teeth than that it does any good.

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        Sep 18 2012: You realise that's a British website. Their rotten teeth are legendary. I can't find any studies that show flouride has no effect. The general consensus is that flouride in a water supply will prevent around 40% of cavities. It's main effect is on those who have a poor diet and bad dental hygiene. The WHO recomends 1.5mg/l which for a water supply based on captured rain water must be added. If you use ground water it probably already has that much flouride in it anyway.

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        Sep 18 2012: BTW the guy that runs second-opinion (Barry Groves phd) has a phd in electrical engineering.???
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      Sep 15 2012: I have never heard of sand beds that capture rain water, but a gentleman from Holland mentioned this also on this chat.
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        Sep 15 2012: In Holland the time of capturing rainwater from under the sand like our dunes is long past. Water from the rivers is used and pumped into sand beds where it has to sink through first before it is mechanical cleaned, mostly by active carbon and reverse osmotic filters.

        Chlorine gas will escape from the water but it will take some long while if it is standing water.
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          Sep 15 2012: So the sand acts as a giant filter. I have seem small active carbon units at work but am just about to learn about osmotic filters. thank-you for your feedback.
  • Sep 14 2012: I usually have bottled water, but have the option of having pipelined purified water.

    Our local water is for the most part good but the town well is fairly hard and has a strange tangyness to it
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      Sep 16 2012: I was wondering where you are from. You mentioned a town well. I do respect your privacy though but not many replies to this question are drinking from town wells.
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    Sep 13 2012: We drink tap water originating mostly from snow melt.
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      Sep 15 2012: I have never heard of snow melt, does it run into the streams and then into reservoirs for collection?
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        Sep 15 2012: Yes. Water is more plentiful when winter has been wet.