Indian Army Water Bottle

Water is one of the most important elements of a soldier’s life – it is vital for all human beings, animals and plants.  Our body is made up of almost two-thirds water. Blood contains  92 percent water; the brain is 75 percent water; muscles are 75 percent water; and bones 22 percent.

Hydration, or consuming enough water is crucial for humans: to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Being well-hydrated improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood.

Soldiers used to carry water for personal consumption in a water-bottle, attached to the belt. Today’s soldier needs a hydration system that is effective, allows freedom of action, and is easier to carry and use than the current water-bottles.  An ideal hydration system will encourage the soldier to drink more water, resulting in better performance in battle and facilitate in delivering personal combat power- surely not an obstruction.

My tryst with the water-bottle began on joining the National Defence Academy (NDA) in 1979.  We were issued with the Field Service Marching Order (FSMO) with the all important water-bottle.  In the Scale A version of FSMO with the bigger backpack, the smaller haversack was attached to the belt on the left  and the water-bottle on the right.  Most soldiers were right-handers and for easy access the water-bottle was placed on the right.  In the Scale B version where the small haversack became the backpack, the water-bottle was attached to the back of the belt.

Scale B was used for most training as a cadet – for endurance runs, weapon and tactical training, etc – and the water-bottle hanging by the belt at the back kept pounding one’s butt as we cadets ran.  It was more of an encouraging tap on the butt that kept many of us going and the wet felt outer casing did cool our butts in the warm Indian afternoons.

This water-bottle, officially known in the Indian Army as  Bottle Water Mark 7, owed its origin to the British Army’s 1937 Web Equipment.  Made of blue colored sheet metal welded at the shoulder and at the bottom with outer side convex and  the inner side concave to fit with the contours of the human body.  The spout was closed with a cork stopper and the stopper was attached to an eye on the top of the bottle  with a string. The outer felt cover protected the metallic bottle and when kept soaked, evaporative cooling kept the water inside cool.  These enamelled water-bottles were manufactured in India mostly by the Bengal Enamel Works of Kolkata and also by the Madras Enamel Works of Chennai.

The British Army originally called the water-bottle a Canteen.  A canteen is a place outside a military camp where refreshments are provided for members of the armed forces. This very ‘place of refreshment’ became the water-bottle that the soldier carried on a march.  This canteen’s design and use have remained the same since 1937.  It appears that the technological revolution marched right past one of the Indian soldier’s most vital personal equipment – the water-bottle.

After we were commissioned in 1982, the Indian Army introduced the plastic cousin of the age old enamelled water-bottle, officially known as Bottle Water Complete M83.  This water-bottle continued with us as late as 2002.  While in command of the Regiment in operational area in Rajasthan when the Indian army was deployed along the Indo-Pak border in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament, we ordered for the water-bottles, but the Ordnance Depot did not supply us with any.

The new plastic water-bottle consisted of a green, plastic, square shaped bottle  with a  screw-on cap.  It had a plastic cover on top with  handles made of aluminium, and could be used as a cup when detached. The whole set was inserted into a canvas carrier lined with a thin layer of foam. This helped to keep the contents of the bottle warm in winter and cold in summer .  Though the water-bottle had straps to be attached to the belt, most soldiers carried it in their backpacks,

These plastic water-bottles were manufactured by some unheard-of  private plastic manufacturers, located in and around Delhi.  Though it was supposed to be made of food-grade High Density Poly Ethylene (HDPE), the water stored inside these water-bottles had unpleasant odour and left an after-taste.  Cracks developed as a result of any accidental drop or extra-pressure exerted by the soldier on the water-bottle, especially while resting after a tiring long march.  That was why our soldiers carried their water-bottles in their backpacks.  By 2003, the Indian Army withdrew this plastic water-bottle.

The soldier of the future will have a heads-up display on his helmet, a sophisticated weapon and a computer wired to his pack frame.  The soldiers operating in such an environment will have little time for a nap or to get a drink of water.  A quickly accessible hydration system close to the soldier’s mouth will help the soldier take small sips on a regular basis.

The CamelBak hydration system is a plastic water bladder connected to a length of hose that fits into an insulated bag that can be strapped on the soldier’s back or attached to a backpack. The mouth of the hose is positioned close to the carrier’s mouth for easy access. The ‘bite’ valve at the end of the hose makes the water readily available to sip or drink.

The Indian Army could develop its own hydration system that would be less expensive than a CamelBak system.  A change to the current water storage and delivery system is long overdue. A potable, palatable, easily available hydration system that allow soldiers to move easily and quickly on the battlefield and encourage water consumption would be an important force multiplier.  Importantly, soldiers under fire on the battlefield should be able to get a sip of water without taking their hands off their weapons.

Tap Water Vs Bottled Water

Our family friend, Major Shona George, during a walk around the city, was fascinated by a poster he found next to a drinking water fountain. He immediately clicked the photo below.

Tap water is regulated by Health Canada and the provinces and territories. The Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, spell out the maximum levels of potentially harmful substances that are allowed in drinking water. Municipalities test their water sources constantly to make sure that they are within these limits.

Unlike bottled water, the cities test their water quality on a daily basis. Toronto tests water samples every four to six hours and checks for more than 300 potential chemical contaminants. The results of this monitoring are generally easily accessible to the public, often on city websites or on request.

In Canada, bottled water is not subject to the same guidelines because it is classified as a food and falls under the Food and Drugs Act. Aside from arsenic, lead and coliform bacteria, the act does not set limits on specific contaminants but says simply that food products cannot contain ‘poisonous or harmful substances’ and must be prepared in sanitary conditions.

​Bottled water producers insist they perform a comparable degree of testing on their water, as do municipalities, but the results do not have to be made public — although some companies post sample water quality analyses online. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspects and takes enforcement action “as required” if it becomes aware of a potential food safety hazard “via a complaint or other means.” There have been efforts to introduce stricter bottled water guidelines, but these have been stalled for years, largely leaving the industry to police itself.

Coca-Cola​ and PepsiCo, two of the biggest manufacturers of bottled water, have come under fire in recent years for not revealing that popular brands like Dasani and Aquafina are essentially treated tap water. Bottled water labels in Canada do have to specify how the water was treated and whether it contains fluoride and must list any added ingredients. Mineral and spring water must specify the mineral salt content while water that has had the bulk of its minerals filtered out must be labelled “demineralised.”

Some brands specify an expiration date, although this is not required, and there is disagreement on whether water — if kept sealed and stored in cool conditions that don’t promote the growth of bacteria — can ever “expire.” The industry has said bottled water has a shelf life of two years, but Health Canada suggests replacing water after one year while the US Food and Drug Administration considers it to have an indefinite shelf life.

As more consumers sip bottled water, fewer of them ingest enough fluoride to prevent cavities. According to the American Dental Association, if bottled water is your main source of drinking water, you could be missing the decay-preventive benefits of fluoride.

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It is really hard to recycle plastic bottles. Most of these plastic bottles are not recycled and end up lying stagnant in landfills, on our streets, on the sidewalks, in parks, front yards and rivers. They end up discharging heavy toxins into the environment and also clogs up the sewage lines. They prove obstacles to the natural drainage of rainwater and causes stagnation. Stagnant water causes many germs to multiply and is an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.

These inputs prompted me to study the municipal water supply system in our City of Mississauga, which comes under the Peel Region and investigate the claims of the Government of Ontario.

Lake Ontario is the source for the Peel Drinking Water System. The lake water enters the intake, located about 2 km from the lakeshore and is treated at the treatment facility at the pumping stations.  As the water enters the treatment facility, it passes through travelling screens. These screens prevent items such as fish, sticks and aquatic plants from entering the treatment facility and damaging equipment. Water is then treated by ozonation, reverse osmosis and carbon filtration. Prior to supply into the water supply system, water is disinfected by chlorination for inactivation of bacteria/ disease causing organisms and Fluorine is added for better dental health and to protect teeth from cavities

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This water is then supplied through pipes, buried 10 feet below to prevent freezing in winter. Water in the pipelines is maintained at about 100 psi. There are three water towers in the city which are also connected to the pipeline. During low water usage hours, the tanks on the water towers get filled and they discharge into the pipeline when the pressure falls due to high usage during peak hours, thus maintaining the optimum pressure. There is thus no need for overhead tanks at the end users’ home as the city guarantees 24 hours water supply at optimum pressure.

As the water in the pipelines is maintained under high pressure all throughout, there is hardly any chance of muddy water from the ground getting into the pipes. Entry of dirty water or sewage into the pipeline is possible only when there is intermittent water supply and there is a crack in the pipe. The water in the pipe leaks into the soil around when under pressure. When the water supply is shut down, the pressure in the pipeline drops below the pressure of water in the soil, forcing muddy water into the pipeline through the crack. When water supply is restored, this muddy water in the pipes reaches the consumer. Thus one often finds muddy water flowing down for a few minutes when water supply is restored.

This is why the claims of the Ontario Government that the best drinking water is the municipal tap water, stand fully vindicated.

“If there were water
And no rock
If there were rock
And also water
And water
A spring
A pool among the rock
If there were the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
But sound of water over a rock
Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water”
—-TS Eliot (The Waste Land)