The Most Essential Nutrient; the Most Precious Resource

Proper hydration is important throughout the year but it becomes even more critical during the hot summer months. Water is our most important nutrient since it is the basis for the aqueous medium in which all living processes occur. The adult human body is typically between 55-60% water (babies are about 75% water). Men have higher amounts than women due to their greater muscle mass (muscle tissue is 75% water). Even human bone surprisingly contains about 20% water. An average person can live up to three to four weeks without food but only three to five days without water. How much water should one consume on a daily basis? The 8x8 rule is the typical answer- 8 glasses each containing 8 oz. of water. This is a generalized amount and does not take into account the amount of water ingested in food or other beverages. We should always be aware of our thirst mechanism and heed its calling and monitor the color of our urine (clear to light straw colored is optimal) to stay properly hydrated.

Here in the northeast we tend to take our supply of water for granted. Compared to many other parts of the country (and the world), we are fortunate to have a reasonably ample water supply. Despite 2016 being a drought year for Massachusetts, we still received just over 40 inches of precipitation. Worcester averages 48 inches per year and we are on target to approximate that total in 2017. Even in the 2016 drought year we exceeded the normal U.S. average (30.2 inches) by 33%!

The earth is sometimes referred to as the “Blue Planet” as it is observed from outer space because 71% of its surface is covered by water. Water is also hidden under ground and in the air as water vapor. According to the U.S. Geologic Survey, oceans and inland seas account for over 97% of the earth’s water. Since all of that water is saline (salt water), that leaves less than 3% of the earth’s water as fresh water. About two-thirds of that fresh water is “locked up” in ice caps and glaciers. All the lakes, rivers, marshes and swamps in the world add up to only .01% of the earth’s water, with another .61% (some of which is saline) located underground. Much of that meager amount of fresh water is located in remote, inhospitable areas like northern Canada and Russia. Many lakes and rivers have been seriously affected by agricultural and/or industrial pollution. Examples of water bodies suffering from severe degradation include Lake Erie and Lake Ontario in the U.S., Lake Victoria in east-central Africa, Lake Baikal (the world’s oldest and deepest lake, containing 21% of the world’s fresh water) in Siberia and the Huai River in China. When all of these factors are taken into consideration, it is estimated that only .007% of the earth’s water is available to support the fresh water needs of the 7.5 billion people inhabiting the world. It is also important to remember that the water on our planet is a finite commodity. The same water molecules that coursed down the long neck of a Diplodocus as it lifted it head out of a Jurassic swamp to munch on a mouthful of aquatic vegetation 150 million years ago could have been trickling down your own neck during a morning shower. The hydrologic cycle is what keeps the waters flowing. Moisture evaporates from the various bodies of water, especially the oceans; the water vapor then condenses into clouds and eventually falls back to the earth as precipitation in the form of rain, ice or snow.

Although the Clean Water Act of 1972 has not achieved many of the water quality goals established by the U.S. Congress, our waterways here in the States are significantly cleaner than they were prior to its passage. Now is the time to reform this legislation by strengthening its regulatory powers to contend with polluting offenders; not eviscerate it as some corporate- beholden politicians have proposed to do.