U.S. bottled water consumption grew an additional 3.5 percent in 2010, on top of the 24 percent increase from 2004 to 2009. Sales of bottled water have more than quadrupled in the past 20 years. Just how much water are we talking here? Lots. Every 27 hours, Americans consume enough bottled water to circle the entire equator with plastic bottles stacked end to end. The beverage industry has made a killing with bottled water, but at what cost to the environment?
Plastic water bottles can be recycled, but most are not. They end up in landfills or as roadside litter. The production and transportation of bottled water for the U.S. market alone consumes more than 30 million barrels of oil each year and produces as much carbon dioxide as two million cars. Tap water creates less pollution and uses much less energy than transporting and manufacturing plastic water bottles. According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, close to half of all bottled water is drawn from municipal tap water. Expensive bottled water — right from the tap.
As if just plain bottled water wasn’t enough of a boondoggle, now you can purchase it enhanced with everything from taurine to ginseng. Don’t want to drink coffee to get your caffeine? Try some Propel Invigorating Water. What do you think makes it so invigorating? Lifewater, VitaminWater, Snapple Antioxidant Water — they claim to help protect your body, boost your physical performance during exercise and provide you with your morning nutrition. They use these claims to increase sales, and that is really the only benefit they offer over plain water.
Water accounts for about 60 percent of the human body — about 11 gallons of water in every 155-pound person. Consuming water is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your body each day. Plain tap water works just fine. Adequate intake of water affects everything from the moistness in your mouth to the lubrication in your joints. Staying well hydrated helps keep your mood stable, your memory sharp and your problem-solving skills in top form.
Your kidneys need adequate water to filter waste from the blood to be excreted in the urine. A well-hydrated person is less likely to develop a urinary tract infection or kidney stones. Dehydration lowers your blood volume so your heart has to work harder to pump the available blood to provide oxygen to your cells. Everyday activities like walking up the stairs become more difficult when you are dehydrated.
How much water do you need each day? The amount varies, depending on your body temperature, weight, level and duration of exercise, and many other factors. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adult men consume about 13 cups of liquid per day and that adult women consume about nine cups of liquid per day. In addition, it is expected that one would consume an additional 2½ cups of fluid daily from foods that contain water.
You don’t need to drink water with any additives or electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and magnesium. Most of these micronutrients are provided in a regular, healthful diet. Caffeinated beverages can be counted toward your fluid intake for the day. Technically, caffeine is a diuretic — it increases water excretion from our bodies — but most of the water from caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and soft drinks is retained. Drinks containing alcohol, on the other hand, cause you to excrete more than you consume.
Luckily for us, American drinking water is quite safe. The Environmental Protection Agency sets drinking-water standards for public water supplies and an annual water-quality report listing contaminant levels is available in each community with a public water supply.
So for the sake of your body, drink some cool, clear water today. And for the sake of Mother Earth, get it right from the tap.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian who lives in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her atGeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.