Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Water Winners at Berkeley Springs, 2018

handing out gold, silver and bronze awards to water; specifically municipal and bottled waters.

As a judge at this competition for many years I have witnessed first hand the impartiality of the judges. Of the dozen judges brought in annually, the majority are new to the game in a given year, meaning they are not attuned to the nuances of water on a daily basis. What’s remarkable about that point is that the 2018 awards was chalk full of former winners. The municipal water category was a battle of former winners with the water judged best in the world for 2018 - Clearbrook, British Columbia, Canada – also the biggest medal winner in the event’s history. The best water in the USA came from Santa Ana, CA, another former gold medalist. “The consistency in winners from year to year with different panels of judges validates the choices,” said watermaster, Arthur von Wiesenberger. “It also speaks to the impressively high caliber of the waters entered.” Simply put, great tasting water tastes great and people are able to discern that.

The competition, open to the public, saw nearly 100 waters entered from a cross the globe from places like Turkey, Cyprus, Jamaica, Trinidad-Tabago, South Korea, Bosnia, Greece and Australia. Waters were tasted in four separate flights over two days. Held in the small enclave of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, the awards have garnered national press and many winners not only use the Berkeley Springs seal on their product, but also see a bump in sales after winning.

Best Municipal Water
Gold (Non-US)--Clearbrook, BC Canada
Gold (US)--Santa Ana, California
Silver--City of Hamilton, Ohio
Bronze--Mission Springs Water District, Desert Hot Springs, California

Best Bottled Water
Gold--Frequency H2O, Major Creek, Queensland, Australia
Silver--Mountain Valley Springs Water, Hot Springs, Arkansas
Bronze--Jackson Springs Natural Premium Spring Water, Marchand, MB, Canada

Best Sparkling Water
Gold--Antipodes Sparkling Water, Whakatane, New Zealand
Silver--Touch Sparkling Mineral Water, Marchand, MB, Canada
Bronze--KOPU Sparkling Water, Otakiri, New Zealand

Best Purified Drinking Water  
Gold--Ophora Water, Santa Barbara, California
Silver--GP8 Oxygen Alkaline Water, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Bronze--Rain Fresh Oxygen-Rich Purified Water, Garland, Texas 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Cap, Then Trade – Smart Caps Make a Smarter Bottle of Water

I hear it all the time. Water is boring so I don’t drink it - I’m too busy - I forgot. Whatever the reasons, many people don’t drink enough water. The bottled water industry has responded with flavored water, carbonated water, functional water, playful bottles and labels, the shape and feel of a bottle, anything and everything to make one of the essentials in our lives – water – easier to consume and therefore to keep us properly hydrated.

As a judge for the 2017 Global Bottled Water Awards, presented by Zenith Global Ltd., in addition to judging categories like Best Tasting Water there is the Best Cap Closure category and I was sent a new device, which I’m impressed by, called the smart cap. Trago, for example, uses an integrated stainless steel bottle with a smart cap that accurately measures how much water you drink. It connects to your smart phone and other wearable devices and allows you to measure your hydration levels. Gatorade also has a similar system. But these are complete systems whereby the bottle and cap are fully integrated and essential to each other. Water.IO has taken this technology further by creating just a bottle cap that fits most water bottles, replacing the cap already on it, transforming most any water bottle into a smart water bottle. This technology is a disposable cap that contains a simple reminder that blinks, vibrates, or sounds an alarm to alert users that it is time to drink water. The smart cap keeps track of when the water bottle is opened or closed and settings can be changed to alert users to drink during a predetermined period – such as once an hour, or once every half hour, and the technology will adjust reminders based on bottle usage so users aren’t reminded to do something they’ve already done. The caps come in various shapes, colors and materials, and lights can come with various colors and sequences, plus there is the ability to add vibration to the reminder as well. They also manufacture a “clip on” version, a cap that attaches to an existing bottled water cap.

Using the Water.IO app connects you to all the major health mobile platforms - Google Fit, Apple Health kit and Microsoft Health, as well as popular fitness devices and applications such as Fitbit and Jawbone. Certainly not everyone wants a reminder to drink water every hour, but beyond the casual user, this technology is ideal for the elderly who may forget to keep hydrated, kids who tend to forget or haven’t developed good hydration habits yet, and for those with medical conditions where keeping hydrated is essential and, frankly, life saving.

Water improves our lives every day, and frankly technology should do the same. With smart cap technology, two worlds come together to make our lives better and easier.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Global Attitudes On Water: A New Study Reveals Why We drink What We Drink

Water is critical for the survival of every person. But how people think about and consume water does vary - local habits and knowledge affect water consumption in specific ways.

Kantar TNS, a global market research company, and Nestle Waters published a survey on attitudes about water consumption looking specifically at seven countries: China, France, Italy, Mexico, the UK, the US and Turkey.
What are the main differences in water consumption and drinking habits among countries? What are the main reasons people cite for drinking or not drinking water? How is information about water and hydration habits perceived?
3,504 people were surveyed, about 500 people per country. Each sample was representative of a population aged 18 to 64 years (except for Mexico and Turkey, where the survey included anyone over 18 - and in China, where the surveyed population was aged 18 to 55 years old). Not surprisingly all respondents in every country defined drinking water as a daily habit.

Nine out of 10 participants say they drink water every day - mostly bottled water (59%) and tap water (44%) but also filtered water and water from drinking fountains (23% and 20%, respectively). The UK emerged is the smallest daily consumer of bottled water (39%) with Italy being the highest (81%). China stands out in the consumption of water from drinking fountains (48%), with a 20% average across all countries.
When respondents were asked which beverage they drink every day, the most popular beverage after water is milk for China and Mexico, and hot drinks for the other countries. Nevertheless, the consumption of water is much higher than for any other beverage: 68% of people drink at least 1 liter of water (of any kind) per day.
Regarding the other types of drinks consumed daily, 4 out of 10 participants drink at least 1 glass of soda per day on average, and sodas are consumed daily by 5 to 6 participants out of 10 in Turkey and Mexico. Sports and energy drinks are consumed daily by 1 out of 5 participants in Mexico, Turkey and China. However 96% of people reported consuming water all day long.
On average, 1 respondent in 4 often drinks water while driving, though the average rises to more than 1 in 3 in the US.
Drinking water, tap or bottled, is foremost a question of need for 93% of the respondents but the belief about the number of glasses needed per day differ between countries. Nevertheless, there seems to be a link in the mind of the respondents between the amount of water they think they should drink, and the amount of water they consumed.
--8.9 glasses daily was the amount an adult needs every day according to Turkey.
-8.5 glasses a day for Italy.
-6.1 glasses of water are needed per day for those in the UK.
Bottled water is consumed for health and safety reasons (93%), and because it is perceived to be “natural” (91% believed this); convenience is the main reason highlighted by tap water drinkers (88%).
Survey respondents felt that drinking water equates to a healthy lifestyle and maintenance for one’s health (94% for both). The respondents believe in water’s benefits to internal body functions: on average, the two main benefits put forward are the actions of water to flush out toxins, and to aid digestion.

On average, almost 1 out of 4 participants thought that drinking water was the same as drinking other beverages such as hot drinks, soda or fruit juice. The most credible advocates for water? Healthcare professionals 90% said, and scientists 88% responded positively. Family also plays a crucial role in promoting water consumption, especially in Mexico, Turkey, China and Italy. Prevention campaigns and schools are also considered credible (both with 77%).

Clearly there is misinformation about how exactly water improves your life and body functions, both with bottled water and tap water.
Personally I drink two liters daily and know that the effects of water are long term and healthy.

The good news about this study is that so many people worldwide are drinking water, more than I assumed. Now, if we can just cut back on sugary sodas and energy drinks…

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Pope and Me: A Call to Act

Pope Francis and I have little in common. Yet there is one galvanizing idea that we both fundamentally and passionately share: access to clean drinking water is a basic human right and a key component in protecting human life and dignity.
The Pope addressing the Dialogue on Water gathering
"The right to water is essential for the survival of persons and decisive for the future of humanity," the Pope said during a meeting with 90 international experts participating in a "Dialogue on Water" at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in February, 2017. Looking at all the conflicts around the globe, Pope Francis said, "I ask myself if we are not moving toward a great world war over water." And he’s correct. In my book, Our World of Water I chronicle a small handful of instances, both in the U.S. and abroad about the growing tensions over water rights, from law suits to armed conflict. This, alas, is nothing new. I also briefly touch on how water has been used as a tool for war for more than six centuries.

Access to water is a basic and urgent matter, the Pope suggested. "Basic, because where there is water there is life, making it possible for societies to arise and advance. Urgent, because our common home needs to be protected." Citing statistics from the United Nations, the Pope said, "each day - each day! - a thousand children die from water-related illnesses and millions of persons consume polluted water." While the situation is urgent, it is not insurmountable, he said. "Our commitment to giving water its proper place calls for developing a culture of care -- that may sound poetic, but that is fine because creation is a poem." Scientists, business leaders, religious believers and politicians must work together to educate people on the need to protect water resources and to find more ways to ensure greater access to clean water "so that others can live," he said.

The Pope signs his pledge to the Dialogue on Water agreement
A lack of clean, safe drinking water "is a source of great suffering in our common home," the Pope said. "It also cries out for practical solutions capable of surmounting the selfish concerns that prevent everyone from exercising this fundamental right." It is staggering that, literally, one out of seven people on our planet does not have access to clean water on a daily basis! "We need to unite our voices in a single cause; then it will no longer be a case of hearing individual or isolated voices, but rather the plea of our brothers and sisters echoed in our own, and the cry of the earth for respect and responsible sharing in a treasure belonging to all," he said. If each person contributes, he said, "we will be helping to make our common home a more livable and fraternal place, where none are rejected or excluded, but all enjoy the goods needed to live and to grow in dignity." Take that as a challenge. We, you and me, can all do something to help, be that donating to viable water charities, to conserving water, writing letters to lawmakers supporting water rights, to using social media to raise awareness that, though many of us enjoy clean water without a second thought, many do not.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ideas That Suck - The Straw, and How to Degrade It

We set aside Earth Day so that, hopefully, we humans remember that we inhabit a living planet – a planet we pollute, abuse, disrespect and disfigure.

There are a number of ways we do this, and one of those is…straws. Seriously – how harmful can a straw be? As I was working on my book, Our World of Water, I wanted to understand the garbage patches that float in our oceans, so I contacted the National Oceanic andAtmospheric Administration (NOAA) a federal agency focused on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere and spoke with Communications Specialist, Dianna Parker.

Briefly – the garbage patch is an area of marine debris concentration in the North Pacific Ocean. The name “garbage patch” has led many to believe that this is a large and continuous patch of marine debris such as bottles and other litter - akin to a literal blanket of trash that should be visible. “This is simply not true,” NOAA states. “A majority of the debris observed in the garbage patch is small plastic pieces; difficult to see due to their size, and many of these pieces may be suspended below the surface of the water. For these reasons, the debris, or “patch” is not visible with existing satellite technology.” And exactly what kind of plastic is floating in our oceans? Ms. Parker broke it down for me:

Polyethylene terephthalate - plastic beverage bottles.
Polyethylene - plastic bags.
PVC - plastic construction tubing.
Polypropylene - drinking straws.
Polyamide – toothbrushes.
Polystyrene – take out food containers we’ve all used.

So I want to focus on straws. I don’t use straws, personally, but many people do. Straws suck (pun intended) because they are on the above list and they are made of plastic that does not degrade.

“Marine debris is a global problem and the oceans are all interconnected,” NOAA’s Parker told me. “Increased recycling is certainly a great step toward sustainability and is part of improved waste management that could lead to less debris.” But stopping debris from entering our waters is nearly impossible. “Our goal with our monitoring project is for localities to note the trends in debris.” She stresses that it if trends can be diagnosed locally the causes of trash can be pinpointed more accurately and those trends might even be decreased because of targeted outreach to the public. After all, recycling and waste management upstream obviously has a tremendous impact on debris levels that are allowed to flow downstream to the oceans.

Certainly part of the solution is more aggressive recycling programs, but fundamentally it is continued outreach and education to the consumer: simply put, far too many people and businesses disrespect our natural environment and do not understand how our oceans are connected to our very own health.

Aardvark Straws
So I’m thrilled that we now have paper straws! A company called Aardvark makes these fun, durable, flex straws that will decompose in 45 to 60 days (I wanted to make sure their claim was valid so I checked on 3rd Party Certification with Cedar Grove). The Aardvark straws are available in more than 200 customizable designs and they are made of paper from sustainable and renewable tree farms, plus water soluble glue and inks, and are the only paper straws made in the U.S.A. Please note, I have no affiliation with Aardvark, I’m merely telling you ways you can love Mother Earth back. I received no money, no support, napa, zip, zero, bupkis.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, Xanterra Parks& Resorts “Choose To Be Straw-Free” initiative implementing an “offer first” policy (offer before you just give everyone a straw). All of Xanterra’s national park concessions in Crater Lake, Death Valley, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, and Zion now participate. “Consider that these little conveniences are made from oil, a nonrenewable resource,” Xanterra says. “Energy is used to extract the oil and manufacture the straws. Gas runs the trucks that deliver straws to consumers. That doesn’t even take into account the packaging around straws,” Xanterra says. That may not seem like much, but it’s a great start towards the health of our oceans and I applaud both Aardvark and Xanterra.

Let's keep fighting for healthy waters!
I am deeply concerned about the health of our planet, especially our oceans, rivers and streams, all our waterways. We need to be vigilant in protecting our planet. There is only one and she needs our help.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Water by Air: Does Shipping Water Make Any Sense?

Bottled water is problematic to ship – considering that a single gallon of water weighs eight pounds - be that across the city, or across the country or globe. So how do companies factor the expense of shipping costs while provide inexpensive, or free delivery?

The answers are relatively simple: volume, loyalty programs for points that can be used for future purchases, handling fees, higher costs on initial purchases, and membership fees help any company to defray expenditures on shipping. Both individual bottled water companies, mega-retail stores and shipping companies see the niche of shipping water, and a big part of that is convenience, and not requiring heavy water to be lugged from the store to your home. This is immensely helpful for senior citizens, single moms who are short on time, and consumers with disabilities for whom shopping is a chore. According to a 2016 survey by Deloitte, just 42% of consumers characterize 3-4 day shipping as "fast" whereas in 2015 it was “within 5 days,” and most people now expect 2-day shipping. In fact Wal-Mart started offering free two-day shipping in early 2017 on orders from an assortment of 2 million items for orders of $35 or more. That is down from the previous minimum threshold of $50. Money talks, but it seems time talks louder.

Shipping water for residential delivery by mail, delivery truck or freight is nothing new. In many cases it’s merely a retooling of the old Home Office Delivery (HOD) model, but with more choices of types of water, brands, sizes and frequency and convenience of delivery. For example, Alhambra Water delivers HOD with 5-gallon returnables or a 25 pound case of ½ liter bottles. Granted, their delivery is regional in California, but they have adapted to consumer demands; i.e. delivery with choices other than just their water; partnering with Voss, Fiji and Sparkletts for delivery as well. Let’s look at a few examples.

Fiji ships only cases (12 bottles per case) so a 24-pack case of 500 ml sells for $29.50, however you get to choose shipment frequency between a 7-day and 90-day cycle, thus allowing repeat purchases. They do however offer one-time delivery as well, but it is subscription that is their most popular delivery plan; this pay-as-you-go option offers 20% off one-time rates and ships monthly, allowing the flexibility to increase or decrease case quantities as needed or pause and resume service without any penalties. It is the convenience to start and stop, order fewer or more cases, which attracts people.

ReadyFresh is Nestlé’s delivery service for its entire Nestle Waters portfolio. So, a case (12 liter bottles) of Arrowhead will cost $14.99, but ReadyFresh allows you to choose one time delivery, or, frequency of delivery, saving money on shipping if delivery is consistent. For one-time deliveries a delivery fee of $6.95 is applied. For “rush” orders placed less than 24 hours before a delivery appointment, an additional $3 surcharge is added to the base delivery fee. Most recurring customers on Auto-Delivery are charged a $3.95 flat Delivery Fee, though in some markets it is higher; Manhattan customers pay a $5.95 Delivery Fee - Philadelphia and San Francisco pay a $4.95 Delivery Fee. Transport has always been a key consideration for Nestlé’s bottled water business model and they have built significant expertise due to their longstanding experience in supply chain management. As a result, their logistics and delivery programs are quite efficient. But no one it seems can compete with Amazon.

Amazon ships any and all water, allowing for the most diverse selection of bottled water anywhere. Using Nestle Pure Life as an example, a 24 pack of 8 oz. bottled water is a mere $3.50, and Amazon Prime’s $99 annual fee means “free” shipping. Without free shipping Nestle bottled water 16.9 oz bottle for a case of 24 costs $7.50, plus $5.99 shipping. But that’s changing. Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimates that Amazon has 63 million Prime members as of 2016 and those customers are three times more likely to purchase more items than those who do not use Prime. According to Bloomberg, in 2014 Amazon launched Prime Now in New York, with couriers who drove cars, rode bikes, and took public transportation with carts loaded up with Amazon boxes for delivery. Prime Now offers more than 40 cities currently. The service’s most popular items? Bottled water and toilet paper.

Costco signed a deal with Shipt  in early 2017 to deliver groceries to residences. Costco members do not have to use Shipt, a third-party shipping service, but it is available for all members. However, Costco has also raised its membership fees, presumably to compensate, at least in part, for Shipt’s $99 annual fee for delivery. Shipt also works with other grocery stores as their delivery service as well and dues vary. Shipt is not national, as of this writing, but they are planning on capturing a greater percentage of that market.
This beverage supply company in Florida ships all types of bottled water; cans, glass, gallon, etc. For example Perrier 11 oz. glass, 24 count runs $27.95 with free shipping on orders over $149, but within the contiguous US only. However, they add “freight delivery” which in many cases is also listed, not as “shipping” but “handling,” so it behooves the consumer to be aware of all charges. For example, Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water, 16.9 oz. bottles, 35 Bottles per case, and 54 Cases per pallet – the total cost is $363.15, with free shipping. However “freight delivery” is $76.46, with a total end cost of $439.61.

Clearly the key is a scalable distribution network, aside from that, and the issue of volume sales, the niche market will undoubtedly sustain itself as consumers look for convenience, ease of purchases, and home delivery on demand.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Collapse of the St. Francis Dam: Killer Water

(NOTE: This is an excerpt. To read my full account of the St. Francis disaster - including Lake Hollywood, the sister to St. Francis located in Hollywood – I invite you to get a copy of my book, “Our World of Water.”)

St. Francis before its collapse. Colorized image.
At five minutes to midnight, on Thursday, March 12th, 1928, the towns of Santa Paula, Newhall, Piru and Fillmore, located in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles, were sequestered from harm, residents asleep in their warm beds. Less than three minutes later, all hell would break loose and more than 600 people would be dead from the single worst engineering disaster of the 20th Century in the United States. Though it has become a footnote in California history, the St. Francis Dam disaster is a tragedy of unparalleled proportions. Why the dam was built and why it failed is a complex story of greed, vision, money, and dreams of the future. But fundamentally it’s about water.

William Mulholland. Photo Water & Power Assoc
When Los Angeles began to grow, William Mulholland, the chief engineer of the Department of Water and Power (DWP), envisioned Los Angeles as a utopia for millions of people. But Los Angeles would soon run out of the one thing that made its existence possible in the first place - water. So where does one find vast quantities of water when one lives in a semi-dessert environment? The Owens Valley is a rural farming community, 250 miles north of Los Angeles and it held massive amounts of water, fresh from the snow packs of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, which could provide the burgeoning metropolis with every drop it needed. Los Angeles began to surreptitiously buy water and land rights in the Owens Valley and, even today, L. A. is the largest landowner in the area.

In 1910 Mulholland designed and constructed an aqueduct 230 miles long, using gravity flow over mountains and across desserts, one of the great engineering achievements of the early 20th Century. Owens Valley farmers, angered at being lied to saw their water levels decrease dramatically. Many farmers were wiped out. I have been to Owens and it is an incredibly sad sight. What was once a fertile valley is a dry ghost town.

Mulholland believed that a series of dams and reservoirs, closer to L.A. would be the safe bet in case emergency water was needed. The 13 billion gallon capacity St. Francis Dam was constructed in a narrow canyon north of Santa Clarita near present day Magic Mountain. Since Los Angeles continued to grow much faster than anyone anticipated, when the Owens Valley began to run dry within a few years, L.A. secured water from Mono Lake, north of Owens Valley; then the Colorado River in Nevada; then the Feather River near Sacramento. It’s thirst was, and still is, insatiable.

After the failure.
Construction of the St. Francis began in April 1924. In July of that year, the original dam height of 184 feet was extended 10 vertical feet in order to expand its holding capacity. One year later another ten vertical feet was added. Raising the dam 20 feet allowed more storage capacity, but what was overlooked was widening its base to be commensurate with its new height. Known as “hydraulic uplift,” the base of the dam actually raised up slightly prior to its demise due to its inherent instability. Additionally the rock the dam was anchored to, a flaky metamorphic rock, was not fully understood by the engineers at the time, nor did they know the mountain was part of an ancient landslide and was also inherently unstable - it was becoming saturated with water.

Only the main section of the dam remained. Notice the two people, lower right
At 11:57 p.m., the St. Francis Dam collapsed. What was once a life-giving force turned into death itself and made worse when it merged with the Santa Clara River. The initial wall of water was 200 feet high. Of the 70 people that lived just below the dam, only three survived. By the time the water hit Castaic Junction, near present day Six Flags Magic Mountain off Interstate 5, the water was 75 feet high, and Santa Paula faced a torrent still 25 feet high with trees and broken houses acting like battering rams obliterating anything in its way. The path of destruction was 54 miles long. Five and a half hours after the dam collapsed, the water merged with the Pacific Ocean near Ventura Harbor.

600 people died, many of them Mexican farm workers living at camps located near the river. Poor immigrant workers don’t land on the front page of major newspapers, not in 1928. But they died - by the hundreds, cattle too. Livestock, cars, roads, power lines, bridges, rail track, farms, all were washed to the ocean or covered in a blanket of mud, debris and wreckage nearly 30 feet thick. Some bodies were found weeks later in isolated canyons along the Santa Clara River. There were bodies recovered 200 miles away near San Diego, and some bodies have never been found. Men, women and children were obliterated in the middle of the night, in their beds. Some fought the torrent of water, only to drown or be crushed by the fast moving debris. Perhaps mercifully so, some families died instantaneously, family pets being the only survivors; mute witnesses to the unthinkable. 

The numbers are staggering: 1,200 homes demolished, 24,000 acres of fertile land destroyed, 11,000 acres of crops laid waste, 140,000 trees uprooted or badly damaged. 3,000 volunteers searched for bodies.
After inquires and reports, dam safety legislation changed. Prior to the St. Francis, there was little dam construction oversight. Two days after St. Francis failed the federal government required all dams to be inspected. California mandated professional registration for engineers, soil compaction tests and a greater understanding of hydraulic uplift, which became the model for the rest of the country, but this was a painful lesson.

Catherine Mulholland
I interviewed Catherine Mulholland, granddaughter of William Mulholland who built the St. Francis, shortly before her death. Her words were profound and have resonated with me to this day, and sum up water and power. “By now we know that Homo sapiens have plundered the earth. We've dislodged, displaced and removed forests and oceans. We've flourished and also suffered. When you move water, things get destroyed in the process."

WATCH my short video on location at the St. Francis Dam site:

Portions of the dam still exist today: this piece being part of the front face of the dam.