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Healthy Boat

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Most of us tend to eschew “boat water” in favor of those cumbersome gallon jugs of “spring” water. But, what if your boat water were actually fresh and clean tasting—and safe as well? Wouldn't it be nice to eliminate all those big jugs and their companion cases of individual water bottles? The PR folks at bottled water manufacturers have been working overtime to convince us that their products are purer and better tasting than tap water. And they have succeeded. According to the Earth Policy Institute, Americans buy nearly 30 billion bottles of water annually—at a cost of $10 a gallon—and then throw away 24 billion empties. Tap Vs. Bottled Ostensibly, bottled water comes in three types—mineral, purified, and spring. But, after a four-year study, the Natural Resources Defense Council reported that more than a quarter of all bottled water is really just plain old tap, regardless of the labeling. That was backed up by Pepsi's and Coke's admissions that their brands Aquafina and Dasani are just bottled, processed tap. To make matters worse, most designer water comes in jugs and bottles made from virgin polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic—a combination of hydrocarbons extracted from crude oil (17–20 million barrels in 2007, according to the Pacific Institute). The good news is that tap water, which is generally what comes out of the spigot at the marina, is usually held to an even higher standard than bottled water—and it hasn't been exposed to plastic. The Problem: Plastic While PET bottles are relatively safe for one-time use, they can become less stable if re-used. The good news is that they are easily recycled. Yet, the publication Fast Company estimates that 80 percent of plastic water bottles actually end up in landfills, or worse, are dumped into the ocean. PET bottles can take a century or more to decay even with help from salt water and UV rays. There is some hope for lovers of both plastic water bottles and the environment. Polylactide (PLA) plastics are made from renewable plant-based resources—basically, anything with a high starch (i.e., corn) content. While they can't be re-used, under the right combination of circumstances, some PLA bottles will degrade in as few as 12 days, but for most it's closer to 80—but that's days, not years. The Solution: Boat Water In my experience, it really is possible to make a positive environmental contribution while also saving some money and reducing the porting and stowing (those bottles are heavy and take up a lot of room below—either full or empty). If you don't have a watermaker on board or a water purification system installed, the solution to creating tasteful wa...

Most of us tend to eschew “boat water” in favor of those cumbersome gallon jugs of “spring” water. But, what if your boat water were actually fresh and clean tasting—and safe as well? Wouldn't it be nice to eliminate all those big jugs and their companion cases of individual water bottles?
The PR folks at bottled water manufacturers have been working overtime to convince us that their products are purer and better tasting than tap water. And they have succeeded. According to the Earth Policy Institute, Americans buy nearly 30 billion bottles of water annually—at a cost of $10 a gallon—and then throw away 24 billion empties.

Tap Vs. Bottled
Ostensibly, bottled water comes in three types—mineral, purified, and spring.But, after a four-year study, the Natural Resources Defense Council reported that more than a quarter of all bottled water is really just plain old tap, regardless of the labeling. That was backed up by Pepsi's and Coke's admissions that their brands Aquafina and Dasani are just bottled, processed tap. To make matters worse, most designer water comes in jugs and bottles made from virgin polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic—a combination of hydrocarbons extracted from crude oil (17–20 million barrels in 2007, according to the Pacific Institute). The good news is that tap water, which is generally what comes out of the spigot at the marina, is usually held to an even higher standard than bottled water—and it hasn't been exposed to plastic.

The Problem: Plastic
While PET bottles are relatively safe for one-time use, they can become less stable if re-used. The good news is that they are easily recycled. Yet, the publication Fast Company estimates that 80 percent of plastic water bottles actually end up in landfills, or worse, are dumped into the ocean. PET bottles can take a century or more to decay even with help from salt water and UV rays.
There is some hope for lovers of both plastic water bottles and the environment. Polylactide (PLA) plastics are made from renewable plant-based resources—basically, anything with a high starch (i.e., corn) content. While they can't be re-used, under the right combination of circumstances, some PLA bottles will degrade in as few as 12 days, but for most it's closer to 80—but that's days, not years.

The Solution: Boat Water
In my experience, it really is possible to make a positive environmental contribution while also saving some money and reducing the porting and stowing (those bottles are heavy and take up a lot of room below—either full or empty). If you don't have a watermaker on board or a water purification system installed, the solution to creating tasteful water is to follow some simple procedures to make your boat water as tasty and safe as any of those bottled waters.

The Four Step Plan
Follow these simple procedures to create water that will be as good—maybe even better—than what is in most of those jugs:

1. Begin by really cleaning the water tank(s). For some that will be an easy process, but for others with years of hardened calcium and other mineral deposits, this will be a much bigger project (and might even require a new tank). Once the water tank is squeaky clean, keep it that way. Flush it periodically with a non-toxic antibacterial, anti-fungal product (such as Puriclean) and add a non-toxic, biodegradable conditioner and purifier to each tank (Aqua-Clean).

2. The Federal Safe Water Drinking Act, administered by the EPA, sets quality standards for tap water that insure the water delivered to a marina is safe. However, you never know how good the marina's pipes (and hoses) are. So, filtration is a good idea. Put an outboard filtration system on the water hose that manages the water going into your tanks. These can be purchased from chandlers (labeled “marine”) or put together easily and less expensively with elements purchased from Home Depot. And, if your tanks are prone to mineral deposits, add a water softening system to the outboard set-up. Showers and shampooing will benefit as well. Change the filters several times a season. When it's time to fill the tanks, just put this in-line rig somewhere between the water spigot and the boat's water intake. Genova's Boji makes a combination set that both filters and softens for about $330 and Shurflo makes a filter for as little as $40—and there're lots of options in between.

3. Install an inboard filtration system either on the galley water faucet or under the sink. These are easy retrofits and have replaceable filters that can be changed frequently. Some of the most popular models are made by Pur or Cuno.

4. Fill a Brita filter pitcher from the galley's tap each morning and keep it in the fridge or the cockpit cooler. Your boat water is now triple filtered and will usually pass the most discerning smell and taste test. The final step is to be sure that everyone on the boat has a safe, reusable water or hydration bottle. The best are either stainless steel (Kleen Kanteen, for instance) or aluminum. Swiss-made Sigg offers a wide variety of colorful options—with a water-based resin liner. Try to avoid the standard hydration bottles made from polycarbonates which have been proven to leach BPA, a synthetic hormone.

If you still aren't satisfied that your boat water is better and safer than bottled, then add one more filtration step: try the new reusable hydration bottles that come equipped with built-in replaceable filters. Three of the hottest ones are: Katadyn Water Purifier-Exstream XR, WellnessH2, and New Wave Enviro (and, when you're ready to toss it, New Wave's bottle biodegrades quickly because it is made from corn-based polylactides).
In The Graduate, a party guest sidled up to Benjamin to offer some advice: “Young man, one word, just one word: Plastic!” At the time we thought it was career counseling, but it was really a prescient warning of what lay ahead.

AtlanticCruisingClub.com or HealthyBoat.com

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