Daily intake of two liters of water is necessary to maintain good hydration, water equilibrium and electrolyte balance in human body. In summer, we drink more water due to excess heat and sweating, and less during winter. A decade ago, after a game of cricket during summer holidays many of us drank water straight out of a tap or bore well pump without hesitation. In a place like India, somehow it is easy to catch a weather bug as ground water has several contaminants. Due to poor sanitation conditions, rusty pipes, tap water quality has deteriorated and pathogenic microorganisms have been discovered in water sources, storage facilities and the distribution system. As a safety measure especially when in travel, we are all advised to drink bottled mineral water which is not a mark of social status anymore but a mere necessity. Let us look at what this bottled water contains.

Natural mineral waters, originate from an underground reservoir, a natural resource with specific hygienic features and, healthy properties. Due to industrial revolution, lack of discipline measures most of our natural reservoirs, rivers and lakes are contaminated with harmful chemicals, and plastics. When we feed the water from a natural source in to a water purifier, it demineralizes the water, gets rid of macro (sand/silica) and micro particles (microscopic organisms) and organic contaminants.

Water treatment in the demineralization includes filtration, distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis and UV treatment. Demineralized water has fewer amounts of minerals due to the above process, and is not entirely safe for drinking. But when sold as mineral water, usually packaged in plastic bottles, water has essential minerals added to it. Calcium and magnesium salts are often added to improve the taste of the water. The CSIR-IICT actively contributes to providing safe drinking water to the society by making membranes that can filter harmful chemicals present in ground water.

Some natural springs contain a high amount of carbon dioxide. Such waters are usually termed “sparkling” waters and marketed at higher prices, although it tastes almost similar to a bottled soda water or carbonated water. The usual anions in a bottled water can be bicarbonates, chlorides and sulphates whereas cations are Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium and Potassium.

One of the main concerns is, everyone is selling mineral water. If water is packaged in cheap plastic bags and bottles there is a danger of leakage of certain harmful chemicals like phthalates which are used in the manufacture of these plastic bags and Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles. This can lead to biochemical alterations or endocrine imbalance. Many of the bottles that we come across on a daily basis have passed compliance tests, and we hope that the government will have a stringent policy in place for testing all bottles and bottled water. Kids if we need a cleaner and safer India, after each drink dispose the bottles properly.

Contributed by Dr. Ramars Amanchy, CSIR-IICT