This summer, I studied abroad in France for a couple months. While I was there, I visited Marseille and had the chance to see the Mediterranean Sea for the first time. It was sunny and beautiful with a fresh ocean breeze and rock cliffs in the distance. I wanted to stay there forever. However, I'm not really a "beach person" and the day ended with only one side of my body sunburned with the stripes of my high-waisted swimsuit perfectly painted onto my now zebra red and white body. Oh, and I also drank a bit of ocean water. How? I'm not quite sure because I only went knee-deep into the ocean, but I ended up with a mouthful of salty water. This had me thinking, can you drink ocean water? Yes, because technically you can drink anything you want to. But how safe is drinking ocean water? Let's find out.

Why Exactly is the Ocean Salty?

Oceans cover about 70% of the world, and it's not just salty because humans are polluting the planet and killing the Great Barrier Reef

The simple answer to why the ocean is salty is rocks. Rain contains some dissolved carbon dioxide from the air, which causes it to become slightly acidic. This acidity erodes the rocks and carries the dissolved salts and minerals from the rocks to streams and rivers and ultimately to the ocean. Hydrothermal vents in the ocean floor also contribute to the amount of dissolved salt in the ocean. Dissolved salts make up about 3.5% of ocean water with sodium chloride being the most prevalent salt.

So, Can I Drink Ocean Water?

Not really. Even though humans should have a bit of salt in their diet, ocean water contains too much salt that cannot be entirely processed by the kidneys. Basically what happens in your body when you drink ocean water is that there would be a higher concentration of salt outside of your cells, creating a concentration gradient. Due to osmosis, the water inside your cells would go outside your cells to dilute the salt, making your cells shrink and causing you to urinate more. Your kidneys can only produce urine that's slightly less salty than saltwater, so more water would be lost than taken in. If you continue to drink ocean water, you will become increasingly dehydrated and increasingly thirsty until you die. Even a cup of ocean water can make you start feeling dehydrated, so keep your ocean water drinking to the minimum.

Also, not only is the salt in ocean water dangerous, it also contains many pollutants like oil, fertilizers, pesticides, and trash. These pollutants can cause you to become very sick and even die. 

If you have to drink ocean water because you're lost at sea, make sure that you have removed the salt. To do this, you will have to use an enclosed container to evaporate the ocean water. This removes the water from the salt. After the evaporation, condense the water into a separate container. 

But What Does Ocean Water Taste Like?

If you've ever been on the beach, then you've probably tasted a little bit of ocean water. It's salty, slightly fishy, and heavier than freshwater. If you want to DIY your own ocean water just take table salt, put it into water, and drink it. Real ocean water is kind of like that but worse. I don't recommend it.

To recap: Can you drink ocean water? No, because it's too salty for your body to handle and there are various pollutants in the water all of which can cause illness and death. Also, it tastes like a liquid spoonful of salt, so why would you want to drink that?