Water Footprint – Other Beverages

According to BMI Research, the bottled water industry sold 596.9 million litres in South Africa in 2018. Given a water usage ratio of 1.8:1, the industry used 1 074.4 million litres in total, or 1 074 400 000 litres. This is equivalent to 34 litres/second.

To put this amount of water into perspective, two examples are used for comparison, namely golf courses, and irrigation farming.

For a golf course, the water usage is usually calculated at 1 litres/second per hole. This is a normal golf course without the gated villages usually associated with many recent golf course developments. Thus, such a 18-hole golf course will use 18 litres/second. The bottled water industry’s annual use is therefore equivalent to that used by two golf courses a year.

The second example is irrigation farming of lucerne. In a low rainfall area, 30 hectares of lucerne requires about 23 litres/second, and in a wetter area the requirement is 18 litres/second. Over a year this irrigation will produce about 600 tons of lucerne, which can be used to feed about 275 milk-cows, producing about 2 500 000 litres of milk. So, bottled water industry’s annual use is therefore equivalent to that of irrigating 50 hectares of lucerne.

Also, ‘manufacturing’ 1kg of beef takes almost 16 000 litres of water and 1kg of maize 900 litres. Remember that it takes only 1.8 litres of water to ‘make’ 1 litre of bottled water, equivalent to 1kg. Our source here is Water Footprint.

For further perspective, consider the recent Day Zero period in Cape Town, when many laid the blame for the drought at bottlers of bottled water and called for the industry to be banned, or put under State control.

At that time, the City of Cape Town’s daily target for water usage was around 500-million litres a day. The bottled water industry, also at that time, used just 543.7-million litres a year. Also at that time, the size of the fizzy drink, iced teas and energy drink market – which essentially bottles flavoured water – was 5 668,7-billion litres a year.