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Prairie Fare: Safe, Balanced Water Supply Important for Health and Environment

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
We all need a safe supply of water for survival.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Mom, listen to this. It’s about water,” my 7-year-old daughter noted as she looked up at the TV.

I was reading a newspaper article about the ongoing flooding situations in North Dakota, so I didn’t look up promptly enough to suit my daughter. I thought the TV story was a recap of the newspaper story.

“Mom, you really need to watch this,” she said.

Then my persistent child gently turned my face in the direction of our TV screen. I obediently watched the report.

The national story wasn’t about flooding, though. The story was geared toward kids and talked about water conservation in homes.

“Do you see what we can do to conserve water?” she noted with her hands on her hips. Fortunately, we were doing several of these things already.

We have many options available to help conserve water. When brushing teeth, we can fill a glass with water and use that water to wet the brush and rinse our mouth.

We can check faucets to be sure they are not dripping. We can install restrictors in shower heads to lessen water use during showers. Shortening our shower time or opting for baths limits water use, too. We can turn off the water as we lather our hands and only run the dishwasher when it’s completely full. Installing a water-conserving toilet, which uses half the amount of water older toilets do, can lessen water use. Using rainwater on your plants also conserves water.

You can learn more about water quality and testing from publications at

Water can have devastating effects when it’s present in our environment in too high or low amounts. We all need a safe supply of water for survival, and my daughter was right about conservation.

Our bodies, which are made of 60 to 70 percent water, need an ongoing supply of water. During warm summer months, keeping our bodies well-hydrated is critical.

How much should we drink per day to stay hydrated? You may be familiar with the 8-by-8 rule, meaning eight glasses of fluid per day with 8 ounces in each glass. Many professionals recommend 8 to 9 cups of water and fluid from beverages per day for women and 13 cups for men. This accounts for about 80 percent of your daily fluid intake. The other 20 percent is from water contained in food.

Some fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon and tomatoes, contain more than 90 percent water. However, your water needs are very individualized and depend on many factors, including your health, how active you are and where you live.

Hot and humid weather and high altitudes increase sweating, urination and breathing, so more fluids may be needed in these conditions. Sickness with a fever, vomiting and diarrhea all increase your fluid needs. Women who are pregnant or lactating need more fluids.

You need more fluids during exercise. For exercises that make you sweat and last less than an hour, be sure to hydrate before you exercise. If you exercise for longer than an hour, a good rule of thumb is 6 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes. This is about the fluid amount in a small Styrofoam coffee cup.

Generally, if you rarely feel thirsty and continually have light-colored urine, you probably are getting enough. However, do not go by thirst alone. As we age, our thirst mechanism diminishes. You already are somewhat dehydrated if you feel thirsty.

Here’s a tasty accompaniment to a grilled menu. Featuring fluid-filled watermelon, this recipe was adapted from one posted on the Watermelon Promotion Board website at

Watermelon, Corn and Black Bean Salsa

1 1/2 c. frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 c. chopped purple onion

1/2 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (or to taste)

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. mild chili powder

Juice from 1 fresh lime

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 dash salt to taste

1 1/2 c. chopped seedless watermelon

Prepare ingredients as indicated. In a bowl, mix together all ingredients except watermelon until well-combined. Gently fold in watermelon. Chill. Serve with chips or crackers or as a side dish with grilled chicken or pork.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 100 calories, 4 grams (g) of fat, 3 g of protein, 16 g of carbohydrate, 4 g of fiber and 120 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – June 30, 2011

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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