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Where New Drinking Water Campaign Misses the Mark

Health + Wellness
Where New Drinking Water Campaign Misses the Mark

By Tim Kovach

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama launched a new campaign to encourage Americans to drink more water. The campaign, Drink Up, is being advertised as “less a public health campaign than a campaign to encourage drinking water.” While the new effort to increase water consumption sounds like a good idea, it has come under considerable criticism from several commentators.

Evidence does suggest that Americans do not drink enough water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 43 percent of Americans report drinking less than the recommended daily amount of four cups per day. Astonishingly, seven percent reported drinking no water daily.

There are legitimate criticisms of this program, however. First, the U.S. government has not actually set a recommended daily intake for water. CDC has called four cups of water a moderate amount, while the Institute of Medicine tells us to “let thirst be your guide.” The World Health Organization also declines to provide a standard, though it does state that people need at least 7.5 liters of water per day to meet their daily needs.

Second, the program avoids entirely the real public health issue at hand—the importance of replacing sugary beverages, particularly soda, with water. Americans have already begun to make this switch in recent years. Whereas the average adult consumed 54 gallons of soda per year and just 42 gallons of water in 1998, these numbers have flipped to 44 gallons and 58 gallons per year, respectively.

Third, if you look at the list of Drink Up’s supporters and partners, you will notice that it’s largely composed of representatives from the bottled water industry. As a result, the program runs the risk of becoming yet another venue to promote the consumption of bottled water, which has skyrocketed over the last 10-15 years.

As other Drink Local. Drink Tap. writers have noted, bottled water carries a host of negative consequences–one of the most important of these involves issues of inequity. Bottled water tends to cost roughly 240 to 10,000 times more per gallon than tap water. This occurs despite the fact that roughly one-third of bottled water is simply packaged municipal tap water.

African-American and Hispanic parents are three times more likely to give their children exclusively bottled water, despite this high cost. They report doing this because they perceive it as being cleaner and safer than tap water (the evidence suggests otherwise). The industry has also sought to position its product as a status symbol. Nestle recently introduced “Resource,” a bottled water for women who are “trendy” and “higher-income.”

If the Drink Up campaign becomes another tool to promote bottled water, it also risks taking attention and resources away from providing adequate, clean drinking water, something the United Nations has proclaimed a human right.

Globally, 783 million people lack access to clean drinking water. But it’s not just a problem that affects people in the developing world. Municipal water systems have deteriorated in many parts of the county. Earlier this month, residents in Ottawa County (75 miles west of Cleveland, OH) were unable to drink their tap water after an algal bloom in Lake Erie contaminated their water supply with a liver toxin.

Ultimately, while the Drink Up campaign seems laudable, it does not go far enough. We need to encourage Americans to swap sugary beverages for tap water and to continue the effort to guarantee that every person will have guaranteed access to clean water.

Visit EcoWatch’s WATER page for more related news on this topic.

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The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

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Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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