There is one universal beverage; it is water. All men are fond of it. In sickness and in health, in joy and sorrow, in summer and winter, in cold climates and in hot, man loves and drinks water. The stomach, abused and made sick by stimulating food and drinks, and repelling everything else, still gratefully opens itself to water. Wher-ever man exists, therefore, or wherever he should exist, water is found, either in the form of springs, or running brooks, or rivers, or ponds, or lakes; and even where it is not found in some of these forms, it is periodically dropped down from the clouds. As there is no element in nature more necessary for man's existence than water, so there is none more universally diffused.
Pure Water Essential to Health.- But water varies very mate-rially, both in its physical qualities, and in its adaptation to its pur-poses. Pure water is as essential to health as pure air. When either of these fluids is rendered impure by mixture with foreign matters, disease will be a frequent result. The ancients must have been in-fluenced by this fact, or they would not have incurred such heavy expenses in procuring pure water from great distances. The strong aqueducts through which, for many miles, large streams of water are even at this day poured into Rome, attest the freeness of the expendi-tures she made for this purpose in the day of her greatest renown. We may pity the ancient Romans for being governed in their military operations by the opinions of augurs and soothsayers, and certainly these things were silly enough; but in other things, at first view equally superstitious, they showed practical wisdom. Vetruvius re-ports that in selecting the sites of their cities, they inspected, the livers and spleens of animals to learn the salubrity of the waters and the alimentary productions of the region. The size and condition of these organs do in fact indicate the nature of the pasturage and the qualities of the water with which animals are supplied. No people can enjoy good health when subjected to the double influence of bad water and impure air.
Division of Water.- The simplest division of water is into two kinds, soft and hard. Rain, river, pond, and snow water is soft: well and spring water is generally hard. Soft water contains but little impurities, and when used for washing, forms a good lather with soap. Hard water contains at least one of the salts of lime, often more; mixed with soap, it curdles and turns white. The reason of this is, that the oily acids of the soap unite with the lime, and form a compound which the water will not dissolve. Such water is not suitable for domestic purposes.
Chemical Nature of Water.- Water contains, reckoning the ele-ments of which it is composed in volumes, two volumes of hydrogen, end one volume of oxygen. These two gases, the unlearned reader will please remember, are highly subtle bodies, not visible to the eye; and yet, when chemically united, they form a liquid which covers two-thirds the entire surface of the globe, -floating upon its bosom the navies and merchant ships of all nations, and by its unmeasured depths and vast breadths and sublime movements, fills the thoughtful mind with conceptions of creative Power, which words never attempt to express. Should the two gases which compose this vast body of water cease to love each other, and fall asunder, the first lighted taper would set the world on fire, and not a living being upon its surface could escape destruction.
Impurities in Water.-It is not surprising that a fluid with as great a solvent power as water, should often dissolve and hold in solution a great many impurities. In passing along through the earth, before it comes up in springs and wells, it is filtered through various mineral earths, and becomes contaminated accordingly. In running through beds of limestone, it takes up a little carbonate of lime. Salt-beds impart to it common salt (muriate of soda), while sulphur and other ores tinge it with salts of various kinds.
Water-Supply.- At the present time all large cities and most of the towns in this country are supplied with water for domestic pur-poses, either from ponds or lakes, or from artesian wells, of greater or less purity, but in almost all cases superior to the common well. water, so liable to contamination by cesspools and sewage. The re-sult is that the health of the people has been materially improved, and fevers, particularly those of a typhoid type, have diminished both in prevalence and fatality. The decaying vegetable and animal mat-ter, which formerly was washed into the soil, and percolated into and poisoned the wells, is now washed away by copious supplies of pure,, fresh water.
Lead Pipes.- In cities, water is usually conveyed through the dwellings in leaden pipes, -a practice fraught with a danger, to avoid which various expedients have been devised. That lead does often become oxidized and impart its poisonous properties to water when long in contact with it, is a well-known fact. Let a number of persons drink every morning from the first water drawn from the pipes, and a portion of them will be attacked with some form of lead disease. The pipes should be emptied every morning before using the water for domestic purposes, and then there is little danger. Tin- lined pipes have been found to be almost entirely free from danger of lead-poisoning.
Physical and Other Properties of Water.- Good water is with. out smell, is perfectly clear, and in the mouth has a soft and lively feel. When poured from one vessel to another, it should give out air-bubbles. Boiled and distilled waters have a vapid, flat taste. This is owing to their containing no carbonic acid gas or atmospheric air,- these being driven off in the act of boiling and distilling. A hundred cubic inches of good river water contain about 21 of carbonic acid, and l 1/4 of common air. Carbonic acid is what gives to mineral, or soda water, its brisk, and even pungent taste. Without a portion of this acid and atmos-pheric air, water is perfectly insipid, and not fit to be used as a bev-erage. Hence, if it be boiled or distilled to clear it of earthy matters, we must expose a large surface of it to the air, and shake it, that it may re-absorb from the atmosphere what it has lost, and thus recover its taste.
Rain Water is the Result of Distillation on a large scale, and would be insipid, like other distilled water, only that, after being distilled off from the waters upon the surface of the earth, it recovers, while ascending as vapor, the carbonic acid and atmospheric air.
Fishes breathe air as well as land-animals, and hence, lakes upon the tops of high mountains, where but little oxygen can be absorbed into the water from the air, are not inhabited by the finny tribes.
The Saltness of the Ocean is simply the accumulation of the saline substances washed out of the bowels of the earth.
The water which for thousands of years has been distilling off as vapor from the surface of the ocean is nearly pare. Being carried by the winds to the continents, it falls as rain, sinks into the earth. is filtered through mineral substances, comes to the surfaces in springs, is collected into rivers, and, with all its freight of mineral salts, is borne back to the ocean. Everything that water can dissolve, and carry down from the continents, finds a great depository in the ocean; and as this has no outlet, the accumulation must go on without limit. Rivers which flow into the ocean contain from ten to fifty grains of salts to the gallon,- composed chiefly of common salt, sulphate and carbonate of lime, magnesia, soda, potash and iron; and these are the constituents of sea-water.
Cleansing of Impure Water.- Impure waters should be cleansed before being used for domestic purposes. Distillation is the most perfect method of purification. Filtration through sand is a good method. It removes all suspended vegetable or animal matter, and all living animals. Boiling likewise kills all animals, and throws to the bottom carbonate of lime. It is this which constitutes the crust which lines tea-kettles in all regions where limestone exists.
Settlers in a new country should make it a prime object to find good water. This is of great moment. Their own health and the health of their posterity is dependent upon it. Any soil good or bad, is not worth half price, if it yield impure water.
Reasons for Prizing Water.- Finally, we ought all to prize water very highly, for it composes nearly eight-tenths of our entire bodies, in-cluding our flesh, blood, and other fluids. Nay, we owe to it the very softness, delicacy, and smoothness of our persons. Our muscles, nerves, blood-vessels, glands, cartilages, etc., all play smoothly upon each other in consequence of water Take all the water out of us, and we should be dry sticks indeed. All our comeliness would be gone. Nobody would or could love us. We should be walking reeds, shaken and sported with by every wind. Let us never forget how much we are indebted to water.
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copyright 2005, J. Crow Company, New Ipswich NH 03071