The Soda Tax is most clearly a health issue. Science now has shown that sugary drinks kill by causing diabetes (amputations, blindness, kidney failure), heart attacksand cancer. We now know that you do not need to be overweight or obese to be at risk.

But the Soda Tax is also a social justice issue. Big Soda’s advertising targets poor and minority communities, where residents suffer both high soda consumption and high rates of type-2 diabetes.

But wait, there’s more. The Soda Tax is more than a health issue and more than a social justice issue. It is also an environmental issue of vast importance.

Ironically, the soda industry, which we turn to for quenching our thirst and restoring needed fluids, wastes shockingly huge amounts of water. It also produces unnecessary green house gases (GHGs) and requires extensive use of resources for packaging.

In California, we live in a water-stressed region suffering from the worst drought in memory. It is feared that with climate change even a 2 degree C rise will result in loss of half of the Sierra snowpack. That means loss of half of the water supply for much of the San Francisco Bay area. We are not alone. According to the United Nations, two-thirds of the world’s population is projected to face water scarcity by 2025.

How much water is used in the production of a bottle of soda? If we include the water used in the production of the ingredients, such as sugar or high fructose corn syrup,the amount of water actually used to produce a half-liter of soda (about 16 oz.) varies from 150 to 300 liters of water. That’s a ratio of 300-600: 1.

A typical bathtub holds about 90 liters of water. So each time you drink a 16-ounce soda, you have wasted two or three bathtubs full of fresh water in the process.

The issue of water wastage in soda production has been most acutely felt in India where farmers have been battling Coca-Cola and Pepsi for years. Indian farmers have accused the soda giants of depleting the water table and leaving local farmers without enough water for their crops. Neither company pays for the water it extracts. Well-known environmental activist and winner of the Right Livelihood Award, Vandana Shiva of the Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology put it this way: “Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are engaged in a water war against the people of India. Their bottling plants are daily stealing millions of litres of water, thereby denying local communities their fundamental right to water.”

How big a problem is Big Soda’s big appetite for fresh water? Consider this: Coca-Cola uses enough fresh water every day to meet the world’s drinking water requirement for10 days.

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