Spring water, sold in stores for purchase by urban dwellers where tap water is bad, is now commonly bottled in plastic. I would advise against the purchase of such water, and only to accept water bottled in glass.
Even travelers’ small personal drinking flasks should not be of plastic, nor should they be of aluminum. Wood or copper or glass are preferable. Such substances regulate heat, and keep the water within cold in hot weather (especially when a damp cloth is wrapped around the water flask). In Greece it is still possible to buy beautifully carved or embossed wood or metal flasks. However, as they are costly antiques now, care should be taken when purchasing that there are no leaks. One large wood water flask which I fancied in a Greek (Rhodes) shop turned out to be a smuggler’s piece. When I was testing it for a leak, a large circular pieces from the front fell out, and could be put back into place exactly. I kept that rare flask. The antique shop did not know what a rare thing they had sold me in the leaking flask which they had promised was perfect.
Water should never be kept sealed up, either in storage or in traveler’s drinking flasks. That is why the old-fashioned cork stoppers are still best for flasks, and second-best is wood. All stoppers should be slightly loosened to allow some air to enter when the water is not being carried around.
Goatskin water carriers are common in many Mediterranean countries. They should be kept open to the air whenever possible. This does not apply when wine is carried in them.
Very often I have found that people after taking the trouble to bring water from distant springs to their homes, then leave the water to stagnate completely in plastic jerry cans tightly sealed. I consider such water even worse than the chlorinated stuff from city taps. Remember, water is living and needs air!
Stored water unless in cisterns deep below-ground, or in large tanks and butts kept outdoors, needs daily aeration by deep stirring and by shaking the containers, every morning.
Stored water should be covered against dust and from rodents. Rodents like to bathe, and a drowned rat in a rainwater butt is not uncommon and could poison an entire family. For outdoors, wooden lids are fitted over the storage tubs or tanks, but they should not fit so tightly as to seal out all air. Indoors, circles or squares of cotton tied around the water containers with elastic are serviceable, or straw mats, held down with clean stones.
Heavily chlorinated water can be made less harmful and less unpleasant tasting by adding a handful of charcoal to the container. This sinks to the bottom and absorbs much of the chlorine, charcoal being famed for its absorbent and filter powers. After a few hours the partly cleansed water can be poured into another flask and the entire operation repeated if necessary. A sprig of rosemary also helps aerate a water flask and gives a good flavor.
In hot climates, where cold drinks are so important for the well-being of the family (and where there is no electricity and therefore no refrigerator), much attention is given to the drinking water. Into the water jugs every morning are put sprigs of fragrant herbs such as sweet basil or mint or bee balm. Or crushed leaves from the lemon tree, or pieces of borage herb, or slices of cucumber. These all give a cool taste to water.
In the Middle East there is sweet-scented white blossom, which resembles white, satin-covered buttons. Three or four blossoms are used to scent a two-pint jar of water. It is called “Fil,” and is often known as “the Water-Flower” because of its popular use in water jars.
In the summer heat of the Canary Islands, the country people know how to keep water, milk and fruits cool when no refrigeration is available. They use only clay or glass containers, never plastic. Wet cloths are draped over them to exclude all hot air. They stand on earth or stone; if on wood, it is kept damp. The earth conducts away the heat.
Other plant-life associated with water is the hazel or willow shrub or tree. A forked branch from either often gives water-divining powers to sensitive hands. With hazel or willow, travelers may be able to find water in arid regions. I know many of the world’s wells which owe their existence to water-divining. These two shrub trees so love water that often they will tremble at its nearness in the ground over which they are being carried in a human hand, and the bend toward that element.
Juliette De Bairacli Levy