Water Footprint of the Top BeveragesBlog Action Day, a yearly event for bloggers to spread awareness of important global issues, is concentrating on the topic of Water in 2010. 1-800-RECYCLING.com is proud to participate in its second Blog Action Day, focusing on water reuse and conservation issues. Raising a glass to the end of the work week with a tall, cool, frosty H2O doesn’t quite generate the same celebratory vibe as knocking back a couple of glasses of wine or beer. Until someone figures out how to duplicate that old familiar buzz using hydrogen and oxygen molecules, alcohol will likely remain the winner of the beverage popularity game. Still, certain social situations dictate conducting oneself with an absolutely lucid mind and demeanor, so fortunately, caffeine and sugar-enhanced liquids are also on the scene to pick up the slack.

Whatever your personal liquid vice, all of it requires plain old water to come to fruition. The exact volume necessary to manufacture today’s most popular drinks, however, varies quite significantly depending on the type. It’s not as simple as using several hundred gallons of water during the beer brewing process or diligently hydrating grape vines in the field. If you consider the entire scope of production — farming the raw materials necessary to flavor our beverages, converting them into liquid form, packaging the final product and shipping it to global destinations — liquid refreshment in countless incarnations ends up generating a sizable eco-footprint. If you’re eager to streamline your personal water consumption, you might want to take a cold, hard look at the beverages crammed in your refrigerator. Unless you’re guzzling straight from the stream or whipping up your own DIY recipes, chances are pretty good that you’re slurping something with a hefty energy and water footprint.


One thousand liters of water is typically used to produce 1 liter of milk — meaning that a 200-milliliter glass has a 200-liter water footprint — so this is one instance in which you can easily justify knocking back a beer in honor of Mother Nature instead!

Orange juice

The same 45 gallons of water that are typically used to refine one full gallon of crude oil are also necessary to produce just one measly glass of orange juice, yielding a 170-liter water footprint per typical 200-milliliter portion. Ninety-nine percent of the water footprint associated with Coca-Cola’s two main orange juice brands, Simply Orange Florida and Minute Maid Original, is due to the hydration requirements of plantations.

Apple juice

Approximately 50.19 gallons of water go into one 200-milliliter glass of apple juice at a water footprint of around 190 liters per 200-milliliter portion.


One hundred thirty-two gallons of water are used to produce one 2-liter bottle of soda, a figure that includes the hydration necessary to cultivate notoriously thirsty raw sugarcane and sugar beet crops. Coca-Cola wants consumers to know, however, that if you focus specifically on how much water they use in the factory, they’ve streamlined it to slightly more than 1 gallon for each 2-liter container it produces (which is a 3.5% reduction compared to two years ago).

Bottled water

Transforming PET plastic pellets into single-use bottles, filling each molded container with treated water and capping/shipping the final product around the world requires 2,000 times more energy to produce than tap water (the equivalent of approximately 50 billion barrels of oil annually). To comprehend the scale a bit better, 24 gallons of water is typically used to make just 1 pound of plastic and 1 liter of bottled water requires the equivalent of 3 liters of H2O during its production cycle!


It takes roughly 35 gallons of water to ultimately produce one stinkin’ cup of coffee, a number that lends credence to the finding that the water footprint of coffee is “more than three times that of beer.” Perhaps this figure will boggle your mind even further: To yield 1 pound of roasted coffee beans, 2,522 gallons of water is necessary (or one drop of coffee uses 1,100+ drops of water).


The large majority of the water utilized in the beer industry is channeled toward the cultivation of agricultural resources such corn, hops and barley, sometimes as much as 95% (as is the case with SABMiller, the manufacturer of such popular brands as Miller Lite, Pilsner Urquell and Peroni). The beer maker recently determined that each liter of brew that it produces is responsible for consuming 41 gallons (155 liters) of H2O.


Boasting a water footprint three times higher than beer, each 750-mL bottle of wine requires 720 liters of water (one full liter of wine = 960 liters of water), which means that one single 125-mL glass of wine has a water footprint of 120 liters. From the chemical fertilizers and pesticides that help grapevines flourish to the choice of packaging (glass, box, Tetra Pak or plastic), the weight of the cargo and the actual shipment mode (land, air or sea), this heart-healthy beverage sadly leaves Mother Nature doubled over in eco-pain. For more information on water issues, visit the Blog Action Day website.