Kicking the bottle: How to avoid using bottled water abroad
Avoid plastic bottles and try one of these gadgets when you're outside your home country.
Thursday, July 22, 2010 - 19:57
NO PLASTIC, PLEASE: Water bottles line a building in Bulgaria, showcasing the recycled bottles in a more appealing state than a landfill. (Photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis/Flickr)
Everyone who has traveled has come to a point when they need to make a choice about water: bottled or tap? Usually in less trafficked areas, and even places that draw a larger crowd, there are risks associated with tap water, including viruses, bacteria and parasites such as hepatitis, cholera, and Giardia. How can the environmentally minded traveler avoid this dilemma?
The old-fashioned way still works. Boiling your own water allows you to kill what might be hiding in your thirst quencher, but it is troublesome and definitely not suitable for a tourist staying in a city or for someone planning on the ultimate vacation. However, it's essential for backpackers and travelers in remote areas.
Another way to purify water is the use of iodine tablets. When used with a filter, these tablets can save you a major tummy ache. Unfortunately, they have a taste most people detest and are not suggested for long-term use. Similar tablets include demand-release resins or disinfectants, which use less iodine. These tablets use ions to attack each cell, creating water that is "microbiologically pure." Find out more about tablets at this travel supply site or the Nutrition Supplement Bible site.
This is by far the easiest way to zap the bugs in your water. With gadgets such as the Steripen, Solar Bottle and similar products, or Meridian, the upfront cost is nothing compared to what you could spend on bottled water or a trip to the doctor. These gadgets run on batteries or the sun and zap the microbes' DNA, making the microbes unable to reproduce, rendering them less hazardous. However, there are concerns that some pathogens are not susceptible to certain UV rays.
By far the most successful form of water purification, filters make sure nothing is in the water without sacrificing taste or requiring a long wait period. Used in combination with iodine tablets, even areas with risky water can become safe — at least in terms of the water. Just make sure you know how to use the filter, and that it is reliable!
Bottled water is expensive and can weigh down the foot-happy traveler. Relying on bottled water is not the best solution because it may be hard to come by in some areas. And if you still aren't convinced, check out five reasons not to buy it.
For a more detailed review on water treatment methods, head over to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website, where you'll find directions for all of the above options except the UV filters.