Sunday, May 04, 2008

Water water everywhere

Via Les the Stupid Evil Bastard, another article debunking the myth that people are chronically dehydrated and need to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

Myths have consequences, and this myth leads to an absolutely enormous market in bottled water: $7.7 billion in the USA in 2002. In Australia, consumers bought 520 million litres in 2004, and at a growth rate of 20%, that's probably passed a billion litres this year. The water has to come from somewhere: often it's merely tap water stuck in a fancy bottle, but it's often shipped great distances, increasing the environmental harm done by the manufacture of all those billions of one-use-only throw-away plastic bottles. And it frequently doesn't make economic sense either: the water companies have enough muscle to distort the market. For example, in the middle of a long-lasting drought in Victoria, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola has a permit to buy aquifer water at one quarter of one percent of the market rate for water: $2.40 per megalitre, compared to $960 per megalitre for tap water.

The Sydney Morning Herald wrote:

The 750ml size remained the same - people want a big drink these days. And as many people say they find it hard to drink the recommended two litres of water a day, Frucor brought in flavoured - but still colourless - waters to relieve the monotony.

Here's a hint folks: if your body is telling you "No more water please!", that's a sign that you should stop.

On a related note, with Australia in a state of essentially permanent drought, a British House of Commons report on the state of water treatment in Australia makes fascinating reading.


Metro said...

Snopes once tried to track down origins of the canard that everyone should be swilling down eight glasses a day--depending on the source that could be up to two gallons (8 litres!).

It's basically a marketing ploy that happens to have worked its way into society until it becomes received wisdom.

I'm trying to lose weight, and I drink a couple of big glasses daily. A co-worker said I was dehydrated because I wasn't drinking 8 glasses, but couldn't tell me why it was good for me aside from "keeps you hydrated."

When I told her I wasn't DEhydrated she said "well the water takes up space in your stomach, so you eat less."

I asked her whether I couldn't just actually eat less. In which case, why waste all that water?

"Well, it's good for you." she repeated. After several attempts to find out why, I dropped the subject.

The bottled water industry also actively runs fear campaigns to smear $#17 on your municipal water supply. Literally.

Oh--and an update on my comment at that link--the RO system under the counter turned out to have no filters in it. The water's fine.

Jase said...

Water consumption is like anything else to do with human bodies - there's wide variation in needs. Some people seem to function perfectly well on the amount of water that exists in the food and other drinks they consume, others need a lot of extra water on top of this.

My wife needs a couple of litres or more a day to feel 'right', and I know a few other people who need to always have a water bottle handy. (FWIW Metro, she eats a truckload of kilojoules a day, so all that water doesn't affect her appetite.) She also puts on no weight, whereas I have to remember to eat less than her - she weighs <55kg but if I eat as freely as her I grow to 90kg. Where does it go? Who knows, just variation within the species I guess.

The variation between people is similar with sleep - I need less than 6 hours a day in summer, gets up to 7 or more in winter. We're 'supposed' to get 8. Wife needs 10 or more.

Most people probably could benefit from drinking more water to counteract the amount of caffeine, alcohol, chemical crap in their food etc, but really you just have to work out what you need, there's no hard and fast number that works for everyone.

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