We have covered Hydration in the past. It is a very important aspect of Scuba diving preparedness and safety. Hydrated tissues are healthy tissues, and they are able to function normally while gassing and off-gassing during recreational Scuba diving. We, at West End Divers, the nice people at PADI along with all the major dive training agencies, doctors, hyperbaric chamber operators, and probably 97% of climate scientists agree, and advocate; hydrating (drinking water) before and after Scuba diving. Possibly second only to proper training and adherence to safe diving procedures, hydrating becomes the safest way to avoid DCI (Decompression Illness, aka The Bends).
A person at rest may require 1 to 2 liters of water per day to maintain optimum tissue health. With higher activity rates, or increased temperatures a bit more may be needed. Water weighs about seven and a half pounds per gallon, so a full day's supply comes in at around three pounds which is a convenient weight for portability. Taking water on the go has a long tradition with us as a species, perhaps spawned from its essentiality for survival, and the containers we’ve used have varied widely over time.
The earliest forms of portable water containers were probably bladders, or skins sewn together, and livestock horns. Gourds, along with coconut, ostrich and sea shells, and it seems just about any watertight container was utilized. Later baskets lined with clay may have been implemented, and eventually around 5000 BCE giving way to fired earthenware pottery. This was it for the next three thousand years or so, although the process was refined and perfected to latter day porcelain, bone china, and Hummel figurines.
It is believed that the first glass bottle was formed around 1500 BCE in Rome, but a couple of millennia later around 500 CE the process was lost to the oft mentioned “Fall of the Roman Empire”. There was a resurgence in the craft of glass making during the Renaissance in the 15th Century CE making bottles for wine, and the new medicine; Gin.
Plastic bottles appeared 1947, but the cost was high until the introduction of high-density polyethylene in the early 1960's. Household products like bleach and cleansers started being sold in the new plastic bottles which proved to be safer, lighter, and with less loss of product in handling, more affordable.
In 1973, DuPont patented polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, and the first plastic bottle to be able to withstand the pressure of carbonated liquids made its appearance. Today, PET plastic has replaced glass as the preferred material for single-serving bottled water containers due to its light weight, and resistance to breaking.
Today, bottled water is the second most popular commercial beverage in the United States, with about half the domestic consumption as soft drinks. (Inversely, we drink twice as much soft drinks as bottled water).
This is an incredible success story, at least for the substance polyethylene terephthalate and its investors. However, lately a very dark side of this product is coming vividly to light.
The bottles are produced as one-use items. To be clear, they are sold to be thrown away. When it comes to individual serving water bottles, they become the most expensive part of the product, which after a brief use is disposable and discarded. True, you and I are very responsible and only deposit this new costly trash in the proper receptacle, or recycle, but there are others.
A bottle of water costs a buck. At two liters a day that is around $1400 per year, or 1400 bottles. In New York City this same amount of tap water will cost you 50¢. Before we see a forest of raised hands, New York City tap water surpasses all federal and state health standards.
As a personal experiment to see how long a typical water bottle could be reused, I kept the same one for 8 months, refilling it at water fountains and coolers. I used it going to the club for swims and saunas at least 4 times a week. Eventually it was lost in a gym bag theft, while seemingly no worse for the wear.
With this failed experiment behind me I went digital and looked up the life expectancy of your typical, run of the mill plastic water bottle. The good folks at the Pacific Institute have some data on plastic decomposition rates.
Looks like my experimental bottle is gonna be around for a while as it is slated to last 400 years before it decomposes "naturally"!
Not only that! It takes 17 million barrels of oil annually to make water bottles (not including transportation) for the USA alone. This amounts to 50 billion bottles, of which only 23% are recycled, leaving 38 billion bottles as waste, to the tune of 1 billion dollars in discarded plastic annually.
It is a sad admission to make that not all of us dispose of our refuse responsibly. Those of us on the ocean regularly are seeing more and more plastic, much of it as bottles, in the environment. Not only unsightly, it is dangerous to the very animals we choose to seek and observe. 80 percent of pollution enters the ocean from the land. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California, and it is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. This floating mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one. Marine organisms ingest it, get entrapped it, and are subject to toxic wastes leached from it. Minimizing plastic one use containers is a good first step in controlling this pestilence.
In Central America water standards can be questionable, and bottled purified water is the norm when one needs to hydrate, and the plastic bottle is everywhere. Here at West End Divers, realizing the importance of hydration for comfort and safety, we provide bottled water for our guests free of charge. We purchase it in five gallon re-usable containers for about a buck and a half, and offer it to all comers. However we do not provide individual bottles, or plastic cups.
Purchasing a bottle to bring with you and use on your holiday is an option, and gosh the improvements engineers have come up with in the field of water containers is amazing. Instruction manuals can be a must. Looking at the bottom of one of these new and improved containers that had been left behind by a guest I spied a price tag of $30! It sure was purty.
We prefer to invite our guests to take a light trip on the dark side, and purchase a bottle of water locally. Pick out a bottle that fits your hand, is the right size, and accessorizes well with your wardrobe. Enjoy its refreshing contents to the fullest, and when it is empty breathe new life into your personal container by refilling it at our large economy-sized purified water station. With a half-life of 200 years this one bottle should last your whole vacation, if not your existence. Do you have any other souvenirs that have lasted that long?