Water, the fountain of life | Sunday Observer

Water, the fountain of life

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry. - Thomas Fuller

Water is something precious. We can drink it, bathe in it or contemplate on it. It is essential to human life just like the air we breathe. With all such superlative qualities, sometimes we overlook the importance of water which is the most abundant ingredient in our body. Scientists say it is more important than carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals and fats. Even those who take part in fast-unto-death campaigns know that they can live up to 40 days without food, but no more than seven days without water. If you fail to drink water for a long time, you will end up with dehydration leading to death.


Water helps the distribution of nutrients throughout the body. It helps us get rid of waste matter. If you do not drink water, you will feel thirsty and warm. Water is the main ingredient that helps chemical reactions in the body. What is more, water is an important element in the lubricating process in the eyes, joints and digestion. In addition, the human body consists of nearly 65 - 75 per cent of water. There is a lot of water in human blood and bones are 20 per cent water.

A healthy person has to drink a lot of water. However, tea, coffee or soft drinks tend to reduce the body’s water content. Everything we eat contains water and there is 70 per cent of water in meat alone. According to medical opinion, a person can drink any amount of water without any risk. The body gets rid of excess water through excretion, exhalation and perspiration. However, if you do not drink water at all, you will develop dehydration. Doctors advise us to drink at least four glasses of fluid a day to avoid dehydration.

Those who try to lose weight tend to drink less water. This is supposed to be ineffective and damaging. Therefore, water is necessary even for dieters. Some sports instructors and dance teachers advise their students not to drink water when practising. According to sports nutritionist Robert Haas, athletes, dancers and others who exercise their bodies should drink water before, during and after sports and dance activities. This helps them to improve their stamina.

Some medical authorities have claimed that drinking water slows down the ageing process of the skin. Recent research confirms that it is not so. Conversely, dehydration can wrinkle the skin. This is because a dehydrated body will absorb water from the skin tissues making them dry and wrinkled.

However, for those with health issues it is advisable to consult a physician before consuming a lot of water to avoid side effects.

As has been seen, water has many benefits to man. However, too much bathing and washing of the skin would damage the protected layer of fatty substances. It does not mean that you should not have a bath every day. According to Dr Nicholas Scoter, Prof of Dermatology, “It’s safe to take a bath every day, but not more than one a day.”

Facial tissues

Some of us wonder whether it is good to wash our faces several times a the day. Dr Scoter says even if you wash your face frequently, it will not damage the facial tissues because the oil glands of the face protect it. Sometimes he asks his patients to bathe less often and apply a moisturizing lotion afterwards.

People have known the therapeutic value of water for a long time. It is believed that bathing at hot water wells relieve pain. Even the Japanese had used hot tubs of water more than 1,500 years ago. The Romans had the steam bath spas. Today, the spa industry is booming in many parts of the world including Sri Lanka. In France, one per cent of the population visits spas. In Sri Lanka too spas are becoming popular day by day.

There is no scientific evidence to prove that those who visit spas are healthier than others. Those who visit spas regularly believe that the water mixed with herbs and aroma relieves pain and acts against certain diseases. This is because those who manage spas provide the necessary atmosphere for relaxation in privacy and the promise of healing properties. However, those who do not visit spas claim that all such beliefs are psychological.

Hot water

Traditional healers use cold water to clean wounds, reduce body temperature, prevent swelling, and reduce pain from bruises. Hot water is used to relax muscles and restore joint muscles, clean and heal burnt flesh and alleviate the pain caused by arthritis.

Today, unlike in the distant past, purified water is available in bottles. The bottle water industry is booming because in many countries people do not drink tap water without boiling or filtering. Tap water has to be filtered to remove the heavy metals such as lead and cadmium which depress the immune system. If you are travelling, you do not have to carry a bottle of water because bottled water is available almost everywhere. Bottled water is not cheap but people are more concerned about their health than the price.

There is some good news for those suffering from arthritis. According to the editors of the ‘Harvard Health Letter’, exercising in warm water can be just as effective as fast walking to stay fit and increase overall health. Since many of the exercises are done in waist deep or chest-high water, you do not have to know how to swim to get the benefits. Many leisure centres in developed countries offer water-exercise programs, especially, for those suffering from arthritis or other disorders.

English idioms

Water has enriched English idioms. When something produces no results we say it is like water off a duck’s back. Water runs straight off a duck’s oily feathers without wetting them. When your explanation is incorrect or inaccurate, we say it does not hold water. As children we quarrel but as adults we treat such quarrels as water under the bridge, something past and cannot be altered and not worth worrying about. Sometimes you feel like a fish out of water when you face an uncomfortable or unaccustomed situation. We listen to speeches very often. Sometimes we say somebody’s speech was milk and water after the fiery rhetoric of the previous speaker. We mean that his speech was weak and lacking in liveliness and interest. Some people do not earn very much legitimately, but they spend money like water. We do not know where they get it from.

Rivers and other waterways are getting polluted all over the world. However, an extraordinary, perhaps unique, feature of the Ganges River in India is its unpollutability. People believe that no bacteria live in its changeless sterility. Millions of Hindus use its water for drinking and bathing. Dr John Howard Northrop, co-winner of the prestigious Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1946 said, “We know that the Ganges is highly contaminated. Yet Indians drink out of it, swim in it, and are apparently not affected.” He added, “Perhaps bacteriophage (the virus that destroys bacteria) renders the river sterile.” Devout Hindus remember the words of St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Blessed be my Lord for our Sister Water, so useful, humble, chaste, and precious.”

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