Water: 6 years of travel, that’s a lot of bottles, maybe …

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ October 15th, 2010. Updated on March 10th, 2012. Published in: Travel blog » How to live overseas.
Glass of water and a palm tree

Water gives life to us all, it deserves our respect and care

Water is today’s international blog action day theme

Today October 15th 2010 is Blog Action Day, its theme, water. You can read more about this event here blogactionday.change.org

In summation: it’s when people who write online around the world unite for one day to write about a single subject in a hope to highlight it. Supported by such organisations as UNICEF and GreenPeace to tech companies like Google and Mashable, along with The White House and U.K. Foreign Office, it’s simply about raising awareness.

There’s a United Nations petition for the right to clean water at the bottom right of this article which you can sign if you like.

Regular readers will remember my post about what is it like to live without food or water in Africa? So you will know this strikes a cord with me.

Today, thousands of blogs around the world will be writing about water, our most abundant resource for life. Here’s my part:

Travelers consumption of water

It’s high, and so it should be. We move around a lot more than most people. We are out in the heat a lot more, and we often carry more around. The result, we perspire, and we need to rehydrate.

But, we are not living at home. So we cannot open a tap, and fill a glass full of clean water. We live out of hotels, hostels, guest-houses and tents. Moreover the water that comes from many countries is not consumable neat from the tap.

Drinking Water safety

Many cities and buildings have old lead pipes that can have serious health implications for a person. Many developing countries simply don’t have a sanitary water supply systems at all. So, we buy bottled water to be safe.

Empty water bottles in a hotel bin

Does your hotel bin look like this? If it does, you might think about changing the way you get your clean water

While the occasional scare happens, 99% of the time the water from a bottle is safe to drink. And, our stomach’s remain solid along with our journey’s. But, there is an environmental issue here.

Bottles everywhere

Constantly buying new bottles of water is an easy thing to do. But just look at your hotel room bin after a day or two. There are bottles everywhere. Many countries do not have a recycling system. And, these bottles either get burned out in the open, or simply dumped along a roadside area.

This adds to pollution, which in the long run seeps into our clean water supplies around the world.

Take action

I am not going to suggest all travelers go out and buy a water filtration system like a steripen. Hard metals, chemicals and toxins will still exist after this treatment. For camping, mountain trekking and countryside traveling I think such devices are great. But for the average traveler going through many cities I believe the answer is a more proactive one.

Keep drinking  bottled water!

Drink bottled water, then go visit the tourist office

If there is no recycling of water bottles in the hotel or country you are in, set an example. Take your used bottles and bring them to the tourist office before you leave. Tell them what you think of their country/city, then tell them the biggest disappointment was the lack of recycling at your hotel, or indeed in the city / town / area.

And, the lack of clean drinking water.

Tell them you will write on your blog or on big travel sites like Lonely Planet, TravelersPoint and TripAdvisor (you can also mention The Longest Way Home, and make me happy!) about their lack of facilities.

Power to make a change

The power to make a change comes through education, and these days, social pressure. In many countries without facilities, people simply don’t know about recycling. And, if the facilities are not there, they can’t do much about it.

Taking your cause to people that can start the change will, and can help.

You are a tourist, and tourist services don’t want bad press.

Examples of countries with good recycling facilities and drinking water for tourists:

Portugal and Spain, I found many recycling facilities there. Likewise many hostels had recycling bins. Unfortunately Spain’s tap water left a lot to be desired. Germany again had many facilities, and the tap water seemed okay. In some parts of Turkey I found water bottle reusable bins.

Nepal has tried to implement a system of water refill stations on trekking routes. Sadly a lack of administration has seen it falter. This is where something like a steripen will come into play rather than buying water enroute!

West Africa is surprisingly good for recycling plastic bottles. Everything is reused. Likewise in The Philippines where plastic bottles are sold to manufacturers. Sadly, the process of melting down these plastics is hazardous. But, with proper legislation can be brought to do more good than harm. Tap water here is very much no go I am afraid.

Flash flood victims in the Philippines

Water can take out a mighty revenge too; in the form of flash floods and many other natural disasters ...

In many countries without recycling systems or clean tap water hotels, hostels etc will have a refill station. You simply refill your old water bottle with fresh water from a larger container.

It’s a local problem too

Don’t blame a local if they don’t know about recycling water bottles or clean tap water. Take a look around, maybe there are more pressing matters like a starving population etc. But, in developed countries there really is no excuse.

While recycling stations are appearing, clean tap water seems to be disappearing.

Again, take the argument to the top. And, for the tourist, that would be the tourist board. Enough people bringing in empty bottles, and they’ll soon get the picture and word will travel up the ladder.

Water flows around the world

Water is precious. We need it to survive. We need it to remain clean, and to be available for all. Ensuring that water bottles are recycled  and clean tap water is desired will help not only the country we are visiting. But, in turn every country around the world. We all drink water. We are dust without it.

Surely in this day and age we can do something about ensuring that what makes up most of our bodies and this planet is clean, and available to all; as an international human right.

This is an additional article written for blog action day 2010. Please share this article with as many people as you can to raise awareness.

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17 Great responses to Water: 6 years of travel, that’s a lot of bottles, maybe …

  1. Renny says:

    I never knew such a thing existed! Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Great tips too.

  2. Gray says:

    Great idea! I do think it’s incumbent upon us all to education cities and regions that are not already recycling by a) telling them how important it is to us, b) showing them how it’s done, and c) showing them what’s in it for them to do it.

  3. ciki says:

    great post dear! check out my friend’s website (IVAN) – they actually provide disaster relief by getting clean water out to the victims. he left a comment on my post . visit his website here http://www.arteronwater.com


  4. Bessie says:

    I always love when I come across guesthouses that allow you to refill your water bottles from their larger jugs – especially when those larger jugs are cleaned & refilled like I’ve seen in many places. An awesome aspect of Thailand, is that Bangkok & Chiang Mai provide water refill machines on the streets that allow people to refill plastic bottles – a liter is about US $.05.

    Nonetheless, access to cheap water & avoiding creating plastic waste doesn’t necessarily bode well for water consumption. I have to say after traveling so many places where tap water isn’t drinkable, I reconsider why so many Western countries work hard to clean water that we flush our toilets with, but in the same breath, access to clean water is a luxury I long took for granted.

    Awesome that you participated in Blog Action Day – it’s something we all need to think about more, especially think more creatively about. I fear that lack of access to clean water is an issue that will continue to plague the lives of the people least thought about.

    • I have a feeling water will soon be one of the biggest expenses to a traveler. Good to see guesthouses and places in Thailand offering refill stations. I hope more places, and countries take note!

  5. Andrew Heathers says:

    This is an interesting approach. I say this as my hotel trash can often looks like that.

    I travel on business a lot. I’ll bring my bottles to reception next time and ask why they don’t have recycle facilities. Should make checkout a little more proactive!

  6. Tim says:

    On my first visit to the Philippines recycling was virtually unheard of. Now you see truckloads of recovered drink bottels being recycled. A wonderful improvement to be sure!
    Your statement that water is “abundant” is only partially correct. While approximately 71% of the planet’s surface is covered by water only about 0.007% of all water on earth is readily accessible for direct human uses. That is the challenge we face and it must be addressed before it’s too late.

    • Recycling is huge here at the moment. Lot’s of people on bikes picking up goods to sell on. Soon some big company will take over, but for now the poor man / woman on the street can make a living with it.

      I think Libya has ideas of water salinization. I’ve also recently heard that The Philippines is sadly not seeing any benefit in wind and solar power. And will be investing more coal and diesel power planet. Very sad.

  7. Late to the game, but this is my concern as I start traveling to less developed countries. Right now I’m armed with the Steripen in hopes I can avoid the bottled water issue. We’ll see how that fares. :)

  8. Alissa says:

    What are your thoughts about instead bringing along your own water filtration system, like a LifeStraw? http://www.vestergaard-frandsen.com/lifestraw

  9. Connie says:

    Thanks so much for this eye-opening article! I’ve always wondered what I should do with the plastic bottles after I’ve finished my water while traveling and your advice is great! Also, in some places (like Thailand for instance) there are recycling facilities, just (for some inexplicable reason) not recycling bins. People do come around and sift through garbage for the plastic bottles to sell back to the recycling centers. I usually leave my plastic bottles next to the trash bins in the hope that someone will come by, pick up the bottle for recycling and earn a living at the same time.

    Let’s hope we can make the necessary change the world needs!