Generation H2O

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You’d never know Australia was in drought. Water is being consumed in the cities like there is no tomorrow and if Generation H2O keep drinking it at this rate there will be no tomorrow. I don’t know how deep the reservoirs are at Mount Franklin but it will be sucked dry and collapse in on itself if the urban thirst for water doesn’t dry up soon.

There was a time when the only people you saw drinking water out of a bottle were exhausted athletes but now it seems people are incapable of getting through even the most sedentary task without being equipped with a liquid side-arm. Passengers can’t get through a bus-ride without it; uni students can’t survive a lecture without it; movie-goers can’t make it to the final reel without it; school-children, drivers, pedestrians, the sick, the elderly. There’s just no end to the need for a liquid feed.

Bottled water, of course, provides convenience and portability but doesn’t explain why people today feel the need to be constantly hydrated. You won’t die if you don’t sink a Pump on the drive to work. In fact you can go for a very long time without water.

There’s an old rule of thumb that says you can go three hours without shelter, three days without water and three weeks without food. But according to the hard nuts at Survivaltopics.com, at a balmy 21 degrees you could actually go 10 days without a drink. So that means with a running time of 91 minutes you could comfortably watch Beverly Hills Chihuahua at the local cineplex, catch the NightLink home and make it to the kitchen tap with at least a week up your sleeve.

But what about that other golden rule about drinking eight glasses of water a day? Most modern nutritionists have dismissed that as excessive. Your body certainly needs an amount somewhere equivalent to that but most people get about 20 per cent of their water requirement from food. Drinks like juice, milk and even coffee count towards your intake too so if you throw in a glass of water between meals you are just about where you need to be water-wise.

And then there are the dangers of drinking too much water. There’s even a name for it — hyponatremia — the depletion of sodium in the blood. You’d think if anyone was allowed to drink as much as they wanted it would be marathon runners. But they are one of the highest risk categories, so much so that marathon organisers are now cutting the number of drinking stations in an effort to reduce the instances of this life threatening condition.

But it’s hilariously old-fashioned to think that people are drinking water so copiously and so publicly only for survival. Maybe water’s the new black — more fashion accessory than necessary. At the very least, thanks to the spin doctors at the bottled water companies, it’s now a lifestyle choice.

Somewhere, somehow drinking water has become a recreational activity. Of all people, it’s the executives in charge of the world’s most popular carbonated beverage that have helped oversee this shift. Coca Cola is into water in a big way. Sales of Coke’s sparkling products have flattened and it was water that helped boost the company’s profits last year. In Australia they have the highest selling water brand: Mount Franklin.

Water is no longer the enemy beverage slaking the thirst of a potential Coke buyer. A few weeks ago I was passing through a North American airport and saw a huge billboard promoting Diet Coke as "99 per cent water. 100 per cent taste". So popular is water’s allure nowadays that the good ol’ boys back in Atlanta are using water as a reason why you should buy a Coke! The world has gone mad and there is the proof. Drink Coke because it’s mostly water. At one time that’s what people complained about: why should I pay so much for a can of cola when it’s just fizzy water with some flavouring?

But despite the fact that sales of bottled water are up around the world and people are drinking it as fast as they can bottle it there is now the inevitable backlash. The environmental cost of producing somewhere north of 100 billion plastic bottles a year is the obvious one. Some progressive boardrooms have taken the step of re-introducing jugs of water to replace bottles and a number of local governments are planning to put more bubblers into their jurisdictions to lessen the landfill load.

So, the whole water cycle may come full circle. Back to taps and jugs and water fountains. How will everyone cope?

Fine, I expect.

Apparently oxygen is the next big thing anyway. Flavoured oxygen at that. This should be a no-brainer for the marketing gurus. If they can sell bottled water for hundreds or thousands of times the price of tap water how easy will it be to sell the concept of oxygen to a population of respiring vertebrates?

After all, we may be able to survive 10 days or so without water but oxygen’s a whole different story. Most of us will expire within three to four minutes without the golden gas, so if you were denied oxygen before you started to read this article you could be dead
before you reached the end.

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.

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