Top 5 Thirst-Quenching (and Thirsty) Summertime Beverages

Fresh lemonade in the jug
Fresh lemonade in the jug

What's your favorite summertime beverage? Is it lemonade? Soda? Maybe it's iced tea? If so, you're in good company: a recent CBS News poll (look for the poll findings at the end of this CBS Sunday Morning segment) found that iced tea tops the list of favorite drinks on a summer day.

Rounding out the top five thirst quenchers:

1. Iced Tea - 35 percent
2. Lemonade - 30 percent
3. Beer - 15 percent
4. Soda - 10 percent
5. Wine - 4 percent

I'm not sure where a cold glass of water ranks in the poll (maybe it just didn't make the cut), but water certainly factors into the production of each of the top five. Perhaps a lot more than you realized:

  • Iced Tea: A 12-ounce glass of homemade unsweetened iced tea requires 10 gallons of water to make. Almost all of tea's water use comes from cultivation of the crop, much of it grown in either China or India. Neat fact: After water, tea is the most consumed beverage worldwide.
  • Lemonade: A 12-ounce glass of homemade lemonade requires approximately 41 gallons of water to produce. The 10 or so lemons and cup of sugar needed to whip up a pitcher of lemonade is where the vast majority of water is used.
  • Beer: One 12-ounce bottle of beer requires 28 gallons of water, or 37 gallons of water per pint. Some of this water is associated with the brewing process. But much of the water used is related to growing beer's ingredients, like hops and barley, and which brewery they are produced in.
  • Soda: One 17-ounce (500ml) bottle of soda requires approximately 40 to 80 gallons (150 to 300 liters) of water to produce. Sweeteners, like sugar, are generally the main water-consuming ingredients in soda. Soda's water use can vary depending on the type of sugar -- cane, beet or high fructose corn syrup -- and where that sugar is grown.
  • Wine: One glass of wine (about a half cup) requires about 29 gallons of water to produce. Factoring into this estimate is irrigation and water used during winemaking. As with farmers, winemakers now have to deal with falling precipitation levels and overtaxed groundwater.

These estimates of the water it takes to make a product are its water footprints. You have your own water footprint, too: the amount of water you use in and around your home throughout the day. It includes the water you use directly (i.e., from a tap) plus the water that is used to produce the food you eat (and drink!), the products you buy, the energy you consume and even the water you save when you recycle. You may not drink, feel or see this 'virtual' water, but it makes up the majority of your water footprint.

I know what you're thinking. I just want to relax by the pool with my favorite drink in hand. Who said anything about water footprints? Do I need to be gauging gallons now?

Don't sweat it: The water required for these beverages is just a tiny part of your overall water footprint. You've earned that cold beverage.

By the way, that iced tea you chose over iced coffee was a good move. It turns out that coffee has one of the highest water footprints per pound. According to the Water Footprint Network, coffee requires almost 10 times as much water as tea, using 1,056 gallons of water per gallon of brewed coffee.

Besides giving up your morning iced coffee, other choices you can make to ensure your thirst quenchers are more sustainable include:

  • Choose a beer (or wine) with a lower water footprint.
  • Choose tap water over soda. (Your waistline will thank you, too.)
  • Bottoms up on the lemonade and these other beverages. Don't waste it. As John Oliver touched upon in a recent segment on food waste, if you're tossing food (or drink), you're also tossing water.

To find out many more ways to reduce your water footprint this summer (and year round!), check out our "How to Save Water" page with over 100 water-saving tips.

Interested in learning more about your personal water use? Check out our new and improved water footprint calculator to find out how much water you really use every day. Then kick back and reward yourself with your favorite summertime drink.