My monthly water bill arrived today and when I reviewed it I realized how much less water we use during the winter months. Here in Colorado it takes quite a bit of water to keep a lawn looking green. Hopefully we’ll get enough snow in our mountains this year to provide the runoff we’ll need come spring.
This is the time of year when Coloradoans notice their skin drying out and their noses feeling the effects of less humidity. We pull out the room humidifiers, our Neti pots and our saline nose spray. It’s never all that humid here but winters are especially dry.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Utz, an expert on neuroscience and pediatrics at Allegheny University, our bodies are made up of mostly water. Though it varies a bit from person to person, babies at birth are about 78 percent water. By one year of age, that amount drops to about 65 percent. In adult men, about 60 percent of our bodies are water, and for women, 55 percent.
Without water a person will not survive more than a few days. We can go without food much longer than water.
They say the comfort zone for humidity is 30-65 percent. We almost never see 65 in Colorado and we often dip well below 30 in the winter, especially at higher altitudes. Doctors in Vail keep a bottle of water in their lab coat pockets.
And speaking of higher altitudes, have you ever noticed feeling dehydrated after a long airplane flight? There’s good reason for that. According to EverydayHealth.com the humidity inside a jet airplane is generally 10-20 percent, well below what our bodies need. Simply drinking a lot of water when flying will make you feel much better (though it may mean more trips to that lovely bathroom at the back of the plane.)
I’m acutely aware of the importance of water when I am in my music room at home. There are always at least five or six guitars scattered around the room – all made from wood. Did you know that a live tree has a moisture content that’s 200 percent higher than the fiber content? Once you cut the tree and mill the wood, the moisture content drops significantly.
Wood will shrink or swell depending on the moisture level of its environment. Experts say a moisture level (humidity level) below 30 percent almost guarantees some shrinkage. So if an instrument or piece of furniture dries out, bad things can happen.
Many guitar owners who move from humid climates to Colorado find out the hard way what happens when you don’t humidify the instrument or the room in which it lives. You get cracks in the top or back, the bridge starts to pull up, the neck shrinks and the fret edges become very sharp.
The Denver Folklore Center is my go-to place for my acoustic guitars, they offer the taylor 510 and many other acoustic guitars. They see a dozen or more instruments a month that need repairs due to lack of humidity.
So, whether human or wood, water matters - especially when it’s cold outside.