The emphasis on harmful substances that may occur in potable waters has almost obscured the fact that important beneficial constituents are commonly present. The chemical substances in water that make positive contributions to human health act mainly in two ways: (i) nutritionally, by supplying essential macro and micro elements that the diet (excluding water) may not provide in adequate amounts (for example, Mg, I and Zn); and (ii) by providing macro and micro elements that inhibit the absorbtion and/or effects of toxic elements such as Hg, Pb and Cd. Specific examples of these beneficial effects will be given, also examples of harmful effects on health that may result from excessive intake of these ordinarily beneficial elements. Because concentrations of the essential macro and micro elements that occur in natural, potable waters vary greatly, depending upon their source, geographic considerations are very important in any studies attempting to relate water quality to health. In this context, the inverse relationship between hard water and cardiovascular disease will be discussed. Specific data relating hardness and Mg and Ca content of potable waters to specific geographic regions of the U.S.A. will be presented. These data show a strong positive correlation between low Mg content and decreased longevity, and between high Ca and Mg content and increased longevity. In the regions considered, increased longevity correlates strongly with decreased cardiovascular mortality, and the decreased longevity with increased cardiovascular mortality.