Do I really need to drink THAT much water?

I swear that the entire time I went to school (including college) we relied on drinking fountains for hydration and we were all just fine.

No one carried around a water bottle. No one obsessed about drinking 8 glasses of water a day. And not one person I know ever went to the hospital (or even the on-campus health clinic) suffering from dehydration.

We did something completely radical back then: we drank water when water was available!

It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come in the last 20 years. People are now OBSESSED with being hydrated. Everyone carries a water bottle, everyone monitors how much they drink, everyone remains thirsty!

How did we get here?

Indulge me in a little more reminiscing…

In the late nineties while working in New York at an internet start-up, I lucked into a continuing education class at SVA taught by Milton Glaser. Yes, THE Milton Glaser!

(For those not familiar with Mr. Glaser, his designs include the I ❤ NY logo, the psychedelic Bob Dylan poster and the Brooklyn Brewery logo. Among his many creative accomplishments, he also co-founded New York Magazine and his euphonious design studio Milton Glaser, Inc.)

Despite his incredible resume, on the first day of class Mr. Glaser said this (I’m paraphrasing here so please don’t attempt to fact check me):

“Do you know the one person I envy? It’s the person who figured out they could bottle water and convince people to buy it. Water! WATER! Something that for my entire life has been free, I’m now paying $3 dollars each time I want a drink -- and I’m not questioning it at all. I’m just doing it, Evian, Aquafina, Poland Spring! That my friends is nothing short of a branding miracle.”

I have to admit, I was in awe. I mean, the I ❤ NY logo is pretty amazing. How was he so envious of water? But I see now what he was talking about, and I also see (like most everyone) what a disaster the marketing of water has meant to our environment.

Think about it, 20 years ago the majority of us were drinking from fountains and reusable glasses every time we drank. And by that I mean we shared. We weren’t each carrying around our OWN water bottle. We were sharing a limited number of glasses that stayed near faucets!

There was something communal in that, something lovely and human. I mean honestly when was the last time you can recall waiting in line for a drink from a fountain? It was the original elementary watercooler. It was early socialization, it was calm waiting, it was meditation pre-headspace.

We know from our basic physiology that humans need water. Without it we wouldn’t survive. But for thousands of years (the majority of those being pre-plumbing years) we were able to maintain our species with environmentally sound ways of hydrating.

And no one really knows where the 8-glasses-of-water-per-day myth originated. Perhaps it was from those brilliant early water marketers, or maybe some fitness enthusiasts or maybe just folklore, but I haven’t been able to find a western or eastern medical explanation.

In fact –  as you can see in this infographic – the amount of recommended daily water intake differs by country. While the US promotes drinking between 2-3 Litres of water per-person per-day, the UK promotes 1.2 Liters per-person per-day. Is it possible that British people need less water than Americans?

I suppose what I’m getting at is this: while you will certainly at times find yourself thirsty, consider the global benefit of waiting until you are near a faucet to drink.

It’s possible there is more marketing than science behind that water-craving you’re having.


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