How Much Water Do People Drink?

Soda is no longer "beverage of choice for human beings," as the average United States person is drinking 38 percent more water than 15 years ago.

wtarer tap 615.jpg

In 1998 the United States averaged 54 gallons of soda consumed per person, to only 42 gallons of water. That's according to AP reporter Candice Choi's numbers from Beverage Digest. That is disgusting, I add. Though, I was leading that pack in 1998. 

Left to my ways, I would drink an entire six-pack of Coke in an evening. Obesity bypassed me, possibly because I also made the excellent decision of not eating much real food. But I am quick to blame the load of caffeine and sugar -- which I imagine to be still dissipating from reserves somewhere in my body -- for ongoing anxiety, insomnia, and difficulty making new friends.

Al Jones

Now I drink water almost exclusively, and new industry data says there's nothing special about that sort of sea change. Americans on average are down to 44 gallons of soda per year, and up to about 58 gallons of water.

That's 7,242 ounces of water annually -- 20 ounces daily, which is 2.5 cups. So in the setting of unfounded claims that we should be drinking eight to infinity glasses of water each day, it's redeeming to know that most people are alive and functioning despite falling far short of that.

What kinds of water are these numbers talking about? Does this include flavored or vitamin-enhanced waters? No. What about Neurogasm? Also, no. It includes all other kinds, though, both bottled and tap, and presumably mountain stream, and incidental rain and pool. 

Derek Thompson took a more thorough look at related market data back in January, which showed the last ten years in the U.S. have also seen a 20 percent increase in wine consumption, 12 percent decrease in beer, and actually a small decrease in coffee.

Choi spoke with Kim Jeffery, chairman of Nestle Waters North America, who told her, "For thousands of years, water was beverage of choice for human beings ... Now we're reverting back to that."

Life finds a way. We are soda-banning ourselves, Mr. Bloomberg.

If you do wonder if you're drinking enough water, the Mayo Clinic's rule of thumb is "if you drink enough fluid so that you rarely feel thirsty and produce 1.5 liters (6.3 cups) or more of colorless or light yellow urine a day, your fluid intake is probably adequate." Not that you have to measure your urine every day. Probably just on, say, on Thursdays. 

The Institute of Medicine likewise sidesteps quantified requirements and takes an Al Jones tone: "let thirst be your guide." They did not set a water maximum. Have you decided to drink more water?

Presented by

James Hamblin, MD, is a senior editor at The Atlantic. He writes the health column for the monthly magazine and hosts the video series If Our Bodies Could Talk.

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