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Are We the Most Hydrated We’ve Ever Been?

By the number of reusable water bottles on every employee’s desk, it sure seems like it

As I spit out these words to make a living, I’m staring at the battleship-gray S’well water bottle majestically perched on my desk. Cap off, of course, because I’m going to be sipping on that oblong hydro baton throughout this writing assignment. If you, too, are reading this from your 9-to-5 office job, feel free to take this moment to walk over to your place of work’s hydration facilities to momentarily give your eyes a break and reload your water container. I know you have one, and I don’t want this post to get in the way of your 21st century office-space wellness endeavor — i.e., maintaining peak hydration. 

To achieve pure liquid hydrogen and oxygen nirvana — or the aforementioned peak hydration — the Mayo Clinic suggests drinking water whenever you’re thirsty. If that seems like dubious advice, that’s because it kinda is. Case in point: The same Mayo Clinic guideline that suggests that “most healthy people can stay hydrated by drinking water and other fluids whenever they feel thirsty,” also advises that typically a healthy person  drink about eight glasses of water a day. And if that’s not complicated enough, you should also be aware that you can, in fact, over-hydrate yourself. “[The health and safety investigator at] warns against drinking more than 27 to 33 fluid ounces (about three-and-a-half to four cups) per hour,” reports Bustle. “This can cause your blood sodium levels to drop dangerously low, which leads to a condition called hyponatremia. Symptoms include fatigue, vomiting, confusion, headaches and sometimes death.”

If you work a desk job, however, I’m pretty sure you’re tempting hyponatremia daily. How do I know that? Because there are plenty of clues to suggest that, as a population, we’ve never been so hydrated.

First, recent research conducted by Quench, a leading provider of filtered water systems, found that, based on a national survey of more than 1,000 employed Americans, “more than three-quarters (77 percent) of those surveyed did not think they consumed enough water on a daily basis to meet their health needs,” reports However, per the same survey, “millennials (the largest generation in the workforce) are more likely to always drink enough water during the work day (26 percent) versus Gen X (21 percent) and Baby Boomers (20 percent).” 

This survey tells me two things. The first is that no one ever feels like they drink enough water, which means that the vast majority of us are enslaved by our inherent need to drink water at any given opportunity. The second thing is that millennials — again, the largest generation in the workforce — are the Nalgene bearers in this fight for hydro-supremacy. 

But here’s where the droplets really start to connect. According to a different PR Newswire report, in 2018, the reusable water market was valued at over $8 billion. Of course, part of this meteoric rise in reusable water bottles is largely due to the increasing number of people who have come to terms with the fact that the earth is on fire, and therefore are attempting, in however minuscule terms, to do their part. 

The rise in really sleek-looking water bottles that could double as mini-metallic art installations is also a result of the accessorizing and flaunting of water consumption habits. I use a S’well bottle partly because I’m trying to be better to the Earth, but also because, by the very nature of having to pay for a water bottle, I’m more inclined to use it to consume water. “This is known as the sunk-cost effect: Consumers feel compelled to use the products they’ve paid for to avoid feeling that they’ve wasted their money,” reports an article in the Harvard Business Review on the psychology of consumption. 

In other words, I’ve fooled myself into better hydro-wellness practices by being the capitalist pawn that I am. Not to mention, I want my colleagues to know that I’m with the times and that, like them, I too understand the value of drinking water and saving my skin as well as the earth.

Again, however, most of the above is what you might call informed speculation about our increasing water-consumption habits. So here’s a fact that should convince you: Americans are drinking more water. “New data gathered by Euromonitor show U.S. consumers spent more money than ever in 2018 to satiate their desire for carbonated waters, including seltzers and flavored water drinks,” reports Quartz. “It’s the latest upward tick in a multi-year trend toward healthier, less-sugary beverages.” Per the same report, “Retail sales of carbonated water have grown 88 percent in the last six years, to gross more than $2.3 billion in 2018.”

To be clear, this latest surge in water consumption is part of a trend that started back in 2013, according to a report in USA Today. That year, the paper reported that, while “soda was the No. 1 drink in the U.S. with consumption peaking in 1998 at 54 gallons a year [per person],” water consumption was gaining momentum. “Over the years, as soda increasingly came under fire for fueling the nation’s rising obesity rates, water quietly rose to knock it off the top spot,” it reported in 2013. “Americans now drink an average of 44 gallons of soda a year, a 17 percent drop from the peak in 1998. Over the same time, the average amount of water people drink has increased 38 percent to about 58 gallons a year.”

So go ahead — take another sip from your shiny insulated water canister. It’s what you want. It’s what you need, and as you already know, the sooner you finish it, the sooner you get to unshackle yourself from your desk with an excuse to go and fill that bad boy back up. 

Keep it moist, everybody.