Character Water

Ethos Water, sound familiar? You might have been the lady I helped get her tall Pike with room this morning; who was too busy to look me in the eye, but not busy enough to complain about our bottled water being too expensive. It’s $2.25. And if you could have waited a little bit longer, I could have told you it is for a great cause.

Ethos Water Fund is the initiative by Starbucks that helps raise money and awareness around the clean water crisis going on in our world today. 783 million people do not have access to clean water, and nearly 8 million people die each year due to water-related diseases. We can no longer ignore the problem; something must be done.

With each bottled water purchase, Ethos Water Fund donates 5 cents to help support the water quality of nations in need. While 5 cents might not seem like much, please consider how many bottles of water Starbucks sells annually. I know in my store alone, we sell through approximately 8,000 bottles of water per year. Starbucks is a large company with more than 24,000 stores internationally. Together, we have raised more than $12.3 million dollars, and benefitted more than 500,000 people around the world.

Photo by Tara Decker

Water is something we must value and protect. All of us should be concerned with the scarcity of water, even if we live in a region where water seems plentiful. Our water footprint refers to how much water is used for the consumption of goods and services in a country. In the US, the average water footprint is 2,500 m3/cap/yr; where in China it is much lower, at 700 m3/cap/yr. We can do better.

Is the person who grows and washes your coffee without clean, drinkable water? In 2014, Ethos grants were made to the following coffee-growing countries: Tanzania, Indonesia, Colombia, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Colombia is actually the 3rd most productive coffee growing region in the world, but about 25% of the population still does not have access to sanitary water.

By the year 2050, the world population is expected to grow from 7 billion to over 9 billion people. To feed the rapid growth, we will need to double our production, but resources will remain the same.

The United Nations created the annual event “World Water Day” on March 22nd to help raise awareness on water-related issues. The UN has several efforts to grab our attention towards limited resources, which helps us not take them for granted.

Water-related diseases caused by the lack of sanitation is one of the leading causes of death. The core of the water crisis was blamed on the issues of governance by the 2006 United Nations report, which says, “There is enough water for everyone” and “Water insufficiency is often due to mismanagement, corruption, lack of appropriate institutions, bureaucratic inertia and a shortage of investment in both human capacity and physical infrastructure”.

Photo by Tara Decker

So what’s in your character, your ethos? Surely we will not listen to the facts and be bystanders. While many of us will never visit other countries, or help dig wells, what can we do to raise awareness of the problem? What daily habits can we adjust to decrease our water footprint?

“When drinking water, think about its source.” -Author Unknown

Ethos Water Fund. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2016, from

Provenzo, E., & Buxton, C. (2009). Know Water: The One Water Curriculum. Retrieved September 22, 2016, from

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