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Why Can't We Drink Saltwater?

water, saltwater, fresh water, ocean, oceans, sea, desalination, dehydration
Saltwater quickly causes dehydration. (Image credit: Hope Alexander | Wikipedia Commons)

Besides the fact that it doesn't taste very good, drinking saltwater is a bad idea because it causes dehydration.

If you took a few gulps of ocean water, for example, your body would have to urinate more water than you drank to get rid of all that extra salt, leaving you thirstier than you were before.

Seawater can be desalinated to bring salt levels down to where they are palatable, but the technique is very energy-intensive.

Related: Why do bottles of water have expiration dates?

Some animals have evolved ways to get around the problem of all that extra salt in sea water. For example, albatrosses have special salt glands just behind their eye sockets that take up the salt in the water a bird gulps and then secretes it in a salt solution that drains out through the tip of its beak.

Originally published on Live Science. 

Andrea Thompson
Andrea Thompson

Andrea Thompson is an associate editor at Scientific American, where she covers sustainability, energy and the environment. Prior to that, she was a senior writer covering climate science at Climate Central and a reporter and editor at Live Science, where she primarily covered Earth science and the environment. She holds a graduate degree in science health and environmental reporting from New York University, as well as a bachelor of science and and masters of science in atmospheric chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology.