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Water - drinking water

Water; rainwater; rain; drink; drinking; tap; tank; spring; mineral; purified; table; diet; nutrition; aluminium; boiling; thirst; filter; filtered; puratap ;

Our bodies are made up of 50% to 60% water, and water that is lost through breathing, sweat, and urine needs to be replaced. This is especially important in hot weather.


Babies get enough water in their milk, but once they are on a mixed diet it is good to offer water as well. For toddlers, milk continues to be a good source of calcium but water is the best drink for thirst.

For toddlers, older children and adults tap water is the best drink.

The following information relates to water generally, and has information about drinking water in South Australia.

There is more detailed information in the Better Health Channel topic Water - a vital nutrient.

How much water should we drink?

As well as drinking water and other drinks (juice, tea), we get much of the water that we need from food. For example many fruits and vegetables are up to 90% water. How much water we need to drink depends on several things including age, the weather, what we are doing and how healthy we are.

  • For healthy children and adults, thirst is a good guide to when and how much they need to drink.
  • If children are able to get drinks of water easily, whenever they want to, they will drink enough.  If children are not able to get their own drinks of water at school or kindergarten, give them a bottle of tap water to take.
  • Trying to get a child to drink water when he or she is not thirsty, can lead to unneeded battles.
  • More drinks will be needed if people are exercising.
  • Water is much better than juices and soft drinks.
    •  The high sugar content in these drinks can damage teeth and lead to extra weight gain.
    • Juices and soft drinks can interfere with children’s appetite so they may not get all the nutrients they need.
    • Limit fruit juice to one small glass each day with a meal.
    • Tea, coffee, sport or 'energy' drinks and alcohol should not be given to children.
    • Save cordial and soft drinks for special occasions like parties or birthdays.

Having lots of sips of water

The body is very good at managing how much water we need, letting us know when we need more water (feeling thirsty) and managing how much urine we produce - to keep it all balanced.

  • We do not need extra drinks of water during sleep because the body can keep the balance.
  • We do not need lots of sips of water during the day! Several larger drinks are enough.

There is no need for children and adults to have bottles of water with them all the time so they can have lots of sips. For example children do not need sips of water during classes if they have access to larger drinks during recess and lunch times.

  • For adults - let thirst guide you. If you do not feel thirsty you don't need a sip of water.

Our kidneys are also very good at getting rid of many chemicals that we don't need. They do not need lots of extra water to help them 'flush out toxins'.

Making water more attractive to children

  • Try putting ice in it [some ice block trays come with interesting shapes].
  • Float a slice of lemon in the jug of water, or some fruit slices such as banana or strawberries.
  • Keep a jug of cold tap water in the fridge (but not everyone likes really cold water).
  • Drink water yourself - let your children see that you enjoy drinking water!

Tap water

  • Tap water (water from the mains community supply) in South Australia is regarded as safe to drink without further treatment, although it is recommended that tap water is boiled for babies under 6 months of age. (Advice from the Department of Health, South Australia.)
  • It is recommended that tap water is brought to the boil  before using it to make formula for babies under 6 months of age. The water needs to boil, but it does not need to be held at the boil, just switch the jug off. (See Bottle feeding - making up formula).
  • All Adelaide metropolitan water is filtered, which improves taste and appearance. Even filtered water may contain some dissolved organic material that may affect taste for some people. The taste of South Australian water does not affect the safety of the water.
  • Tap water is best for teeth. In many places, including Adelaide, tap water contains added fluoride which helps protect children's teeth. There is very strong research evidence that this amount of fluoride in the water is safe.
  • Contact your local water supply company if you have concerns about whether your local tap water needs treatment before it is given to children.

Rain water

  • ‘Providing rainwater is clear, has little taste or smell and is from a well maintained system it is probably safe and unlikely to cause illness for most users.’ (Department of Health, South Australia.)
  • It is recommended that rain water be boiled before it is given to babies and children (at least until they are 12 months old) as it will contain some bacteria and other forms of contamination.
  • Even for older children and adults, boiling of rainwater would be the safest option.
  • Boiling is particularly recommended for very elderly people and people who are unwell.
  • Rainwater generally contains few chemicals, but there may be increased pollution in areas where there is heavy traffic or industrial areas, and it is recommended that rainwater is not used for drinking in these areas.
  • Information about maintaining rainwater tanks and the catchment area (roof and gutters) from the Department of Health, South Australia  

Spring water

  • Most Australian spring water is treated to remove particles and disinfected but it is not possible to be sure that all spring water is safe.
  • Spring water should be boiled for children under 12 months.
  • There is no fluoride in spring water (unless it has been specially added), and this can increase the risk of children having tooth disease if this is the only water they have. Using a toothpaste which has fluoride in it for children over 2 years of age will help protect children’s teeth. (See the topic Teeth - dental care for children.)
  • Concerns have been raised in the media about levels of aluminium in some bottled water, but Food Standards Australia and New Zealand considers the levels of aluminium in water and food to be safe. For more information, see the reference below.

Tap filters

Filters that are attached to taps can filter out large particles, but most do not remove fluoride and dissolved minerals.

They do not reduce the risk of getting an infection from the water, and filtered water should be boiled for babies at the same ages and in the same way as unfiltered tap water is boiled.


Better Health Channel

Department of Human Services (SA) Public and Environmental Health 
Guidance on use of rainwater tanks

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand 'Aluminium' Fact Sheet, 2018

NHMRC  Australia: "Australian Drinking Water Guidelines".  2017

SA Water 'Australian Water Quality Centre' 

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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