Anyone who's ever squeezed a bag of oranges into a single glass of juice knows, at least intuitively, that a whole lot of water goes into that one little refreshing gulp. But would you believe it takes 518 liters of water for just one carton of juice?
That's the low-ball figure that the Coca-Cola Company and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) came up with after carrying out a water footprinting exercise on the company's orange juice supply chain.
The figure takes into account the water pulled from the ground and sky to grow the oranges, the water pulled from pipes to make the bottles, all the water used in transporting the product, and the clean water contaminated by the whole process. It also varies widely depending on where the oranges are grown -- one brand, which takes oranges from Florida and Brazil, uses 651 liters of water for just one carton of juice.
The same exercise revealed the company uses less than 70 liters of water to make one liter of its trademark dark beverage, at least when they're producing it in the Netherlands using Dutch sugar beets.
Environmental groups like TNC can use this information to monitor corporate impacts on the environment, and companies like Coca-Cola can utilize it to measure both their liability and total water needs. That's why the two teamed up, applying methods outlined in The Water Footprint Organization's Water Footprint Manual and its "footprint calculator" to two Coca-Cola products (orange juice and Coke) and one key ingredient (sugar from sugar beets).