Much to my dismay, we began having our drinking water delivered.
This episode of Netflix’ Rotten documentary series makes it abundantly clear we aren’t alone in being impacted by clean water issues. Its examines the connection between corporations selling bottled water and the rising inaccessibility of free drinking water for the world’s poorest communities.
With bottled water, companies such as Nestle, Pepsi and Coca-Cola help fill the clean tap water void. The prices they charge, however, often put their products out of reach of those who need them most.
Cost is just one factor; the water must come from somewhere. In the small town of Evart, just 100 miles north of Flint, Michigan, a single township is supplying over 1 million gallons a day of groundwater, misleadingly sold as ‘natural spring water’ in plastic bottles.
This water usage has dramatically impacted the local waterways’ levels and ecosystems.
Then there’s the problem of waste generated by millions of discarded water bottles. developing countries with underfunded municipal trash collection, mountains of them now clog streams and rivers while slowly making their way into the oceans.
In an effort to build their brands, Charles Fishman, author of The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water, informs us that Pepsi and Coca-Cola use water from all over the U.S., but doctor it so each bottle tastes identical. He refers to this uniformity as “the McDonald’s hamburgerization of water.”
His phrase brings me to my main insight from watching Troubled Waters. It doesn’t address the reality that the meat industry is draining the world’s fresh water far more rapidly than the bottled-water industry!
According to a recent Harvard Health article, “Most people need about four to six cups of water each day.”So, assuming the average water intake is 5 cups (1.18 liters) per person per day, the world’s 7.8 billion people should consume at least 9.2 billion liters (2.4 billion gallons) daily.
The Drovers livestock industry publication estimates that one beef cow drinks an average of 27 gallons of water per day. Dairy cows, says Michigan State University, need 30 to 50 gallons. In hot weather, that may double! Still other estimates average water intake at 20 gallons a day.
Multiplying the world’s 2020 cattle population (987 million) by the 20-gallon minimum totals 19.7 billion gallons. More than 8 times humanity’s daily drinking water needs!
None of this, however, takes into account the water used to grow cow feed, or for other livestock such as pigs and chickens. The math reveals the stark truth of our meat addiction: It’s simply unsustainable!
It’s past time we reconsidered our decisions about where we get our drinking water we choose to drink and how much water our food should consume. Until we do, the drinking-water crisis engulfing the world’s poorest will only worsen.