The Compassionate Mormon: Drinking as though Water Matters

Total Water Footprint consists of green water, blue water, and gray water Drought and lack of clean water kills 50 million people per year. This is by far more than the number of individuals killed by all other forms of “natural disaster.”

While we can’t ship our water directly to those in need, we can ship goods that would require water affected locations don’t have. We can also create demand for products that use less water, making it possible for individuals to make economic decisions that allow them to use water more wisely.

The power of the consumer “vote” is unquestioned. Every bite you eat and drop you drink shapes the world your brothers and sisters are forced to live in.

In celebration of an awesome batch of soy milk, I would love to share some options for drinking that are both water-wise and suited for food storage.

Water – the best drink there is (one cup consumed per cup)

image Water itself, without sugars or flavorings or other chemicals, is amazing. The other day I heard a rule of thumb from a colleague, where he related that you take your weight in pounds, divide that number in half, and then drink that many ounces per day.

So if you were a 108 pound teenage girl, you would want to drink 54 ounces of water per day (almost 7 cups). If you were a 320 pound man, you would want to drink 160 ounces of water per day (20 cups).

Alas, most of us do not have room to store a year’s supply of potable water (roughly 300 gallons per person, depending on what you need to cook).

Enter aquaponics. I’m about to install an new aquaponics garden (~10′ x 18′) in the back yard of my townhome. The system will hold 1000 gallons of water, between the fish tank, filter tanks, grow bed, and sump tank. On a day to day basis, I’ll pop out back, feed the fish, harvest some greens, and come back inside. All done with “gardening” in less than 5 minutes per day.

But in case of an emergency where we have long-term lack of potable water, I could transform the water from that garden to potable water using standard distillation techniques. I’m particularly interested in a solar distillation system where I’d just fill up a glass baking pan in a solar box. The water would evaporate, condense on the tilted glass “lid,” then bead down and collect in a container.

Voila, water enough to keep a body healthy for over a year (speaking of me and a couple of close friends, even in the event of near-total drought).

If there were an extended shortage of water, there would also likely be an extended shortage of commercial food. Here again the garden produce is a brilliant addition to the wheat, beans, and other dry goods I might have stashed in long-term storage. A bit of basil, oregano, thyme, chives, and other greenery goes a long way to making things palatable, not to mention providing necessarily vitamins.

Hydration Solution (50 cups consumed per cup)

image Ironically, it is possible to die from drinking too much water, aside from drowning. The year I ran my marathon (check one off the bucket list) a woman who had allegedly signed up to train with us (but whom we’d never seen at our weekend practices) ran the Marine Corps Marathon. She didn’t bother stocking carbohydrate snacks or rehydration drinks like gatorade. At the watering stops, she would simply gulp down water instead of the flavored rehydration drinks that were available.

She died.

Too much pure water without salts and sugars can leach important minerals from your body, causing you to become very ill or even die. Illnesses such as cholera that cause you to lose lots of water can also be fatal. Diarrhea and vomiting due to any cause can be quickly fatal, particularly in young individuals. Ebola is more rare than “regular” diarrhea and vomiting, but has a much higher mortality rate. For all these diseases, Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) is critical. Outbreaks of diseases like cholera and Ebola could cause commercial stores to become unavailable for an extended period of time. So this is a remedy you want to have immediately available.

You’ll want a good portion of sugar, a decent amount of salt, and a bit of potassium. Luckily, sugar, salt, and salt substitutes are inexpensive, readily available, and easy to put into long term storage. There are various recipes for ORS, but I like this one from the World Health Organization:

World Health Organization ORS Recipe
Shared by Darlene Kelly, MD and Joe Nadeau, RPh


–    3/8 tsp salt (sodium chloride)
–    ¼ tsp Morton® Salt Substitute® (potassium chloride)
–    ½ tsp baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
–    2 tbsp + 2 tsp sugar (sucrose)
–    Tap water  to make one (1) liter
–    Optional: Nutrasweet® or Splenda® based flavoring of choice, to taste


1.   Add the dry ingredients to a 1 liter bottle.
2.   Add enough water to make a final volume of 1 liter; mix well.
3.   If desired, add Nutrasweet® or Splenda® based flavoring, to taste. Mix well.
4.   Sip as directed by your physician.
5.   Keep chilled in the refrigerator for best taste. Discard after 24 hours.

Contains 27 grams of sucrose, 70 mEq per liter of sodium, 20 mEq per liter of potassium and 30 mEq per liter of bicarbonate. The final osmolarity is approximately 245 mOsm per liter.

Soy Milk (600 cups consumed per cup)

image The makings of soy milk are much easier to keep in long-term storage than dry milk. Fundamentally, soy milk can be much less expensive than dry milk as well, when made from scratch. But if not made properly, it can be nasty. So here’s how to make it properly without a dedicated soy making machine (which are blinking hard to clean anyway).


–    1 cup dried soy beans (not the green edamame beans)
–    1 gallon of water (includes rinsing water)
–    3 tbsp sugar
–    ½ tsp salt


1.   Soak the beans in 2 cups water for 8 hours (no more than 24 hours).
2.   Microwave the soaked beans and water for 3 minutes (alternately blanche for 5 minutes on the stove).
3.   When cool enough to touch, rub the beans to loosen the hulls from the beans.
4.   Pour the water from the container. Add fresh water, agitate the beans, and pour again. Repeat until the hulls are all gone (they will be the first things to pour out with the initial water).
5.   Add the beans to 4 cups of water in a heavy-duty blender. Puree for a minute.
6.   Drain the uncooked milk and add to a large stock pot, leaving behind the solids (okara). If you have a jelly strainer with a cheese cloth bag, you’ll find this to be downright pleasurable.
7.   Add the okara to 3 cups of water in the blender. Puree for a minute.
8.   Drain the uncooked milk into the stockpot, leaving behind the okara.
9.   Add the okara to 2 cups of water in the blender. Puree for a minute.
8.   Drain the uncooked milk into the stock pot, leaving behind the <em>okara</em>.
9.   Bring the milk to a simmer and heat for 15 minutes.
10. Bring to a boil. The milk will foam up (make sure it’s a large stock pot). You can prevent the foam from overflowing the container by smoothing an layer of shortening around the rim, roughly one inch wide (the foam will ‘pop’ when it meets the shortening).
11. Reduce heat and continue to simmer for 20 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides to prevent a film from forming and burning.
12. While still hot, mix in the sugar and salt. You’ll end up with roughly 2½ quarts of milk.
13. Allow to cool, then keep chilled in the refrigerator for best taste. Will keep for a couple of days if covered.

You could add vanilla, but vanilla requires a lot of water to grow. For example, the water required to grow the vanilla for a cup of soda is more than twice as much as the water to grow the sugar for that same cup of soda. So if you don’t mind the milk with just the sweetness of sugar, skip the vanilla.

At three cups a day, this should last a family of three a day for drinking and adding to recipes. Remember we’re talking about food storage for emergencies. Like Sunday. And when you realize there’s no money and the milk is gone. Or you find out some idiot stole millions of credit/debit card numbers from a popular retail chain and your bank has disabled all your plastic (and you’re out of milk or it’s Sunday).

Note that the okara makes a great addition to home-made bread. Add about 1/2 cup of the stuff to your regular ~4 cup bread recipe, increasing the flour amount to 5 cups. The okara will not only increase the nutritional value of the bread, but will keep the bread from getting stale so quickly.

Kombucha (300 cups of water consumed per cup)

image There’s nothing to encourage children to drink plain water like offering kombucha instead. Though I have nieces who actively craved the stuff. The taste can grow on you. And a touch of kombucha makes plain water taste better (like adding a bit of lemon juice, without having to keep lemon juice in long-term storage).

In addition, kombucha contains all kinds of probiotic goodness. And the yeast in the icky-looking thing that transforms the tea to kombucha provides a certain level of B vitamins.

Unfortunately, commercial kombucha is made from regular tea leaves. Assuming you’re Mormon and don’t actually want to be storing black tea or making a beverage that contains caffeine, this can be a problem.

Luckily, it is possible to make a good kombucha with the leaves of the red rooibos bush and the related honeybush. Like all the drinks mentioned in this post, the main ingredients can be kept in food storage.

I recommend a spigoted glass or ceramic container for your kombucha. With this method, you simply add a couple of quarts of cooled sweet rooibos tea every time you’ve drained the main container by a couple of quarts. This way you have minimal mess and a continual supply of kombucha to drink as desired. (In a pinch, you can use the stuff in lieu of vinegar to clean with – awesome!)

Tools Recommended:

–    Pot for boiling water
–    Glass pitcher for steeping tea
–    Glass or ceramic beverage container with plastic spigot (preferably not chromed)
–    Re-usable mesh coffee filter
–    Optional: thermometer


–    a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) for making kombucha
–    at least a cup of mature kombucha (you can use apple cider vinegar in a pinch)
–    8 cups of water
–    1 T loose rooibos/honeybush tea
–    ½ cup sugar


1.   Add a cup of water to the pitcher. This will spread out the thermal shock when you add the hot water later. Or you can take your chances with whether the pitcher shatters and sends boiling water all over your kitchen.
2.   Add the loose tea and sugar to the pitcher.
3.   Bring the remainder of the 8 cups to a boil.
4.   Pour the boiling water into the pitcher.
5.   Stir to ensure the sugar and tea isn’t clumped at the bottom.
6.   Cover and let the sweet tea cool to 90 degrees (mildly warm to the touch). It can be room temperature, you just don’t want it so hot it might damage the SCOBY.
7.   Pour the cooled sweetened tea through the coffee filter into the container with the SCOBY and mature kombucha. A re-usable coffee filter should remove all the solids, keeping your SCOBY from looking even more frightening than it already does and reducing the likelihood of mold growth.
8.   Keep covered with a fine-weave cloth. This keeps out dust and bugs that could contaminate the SCOBY with mold spores.
9.   When the taste migrates from sweet to tangy, it’s transformed from sweet tea to kombucha (this will take roughly a week for the first batch, a day if you are merely maintaining a largish spigoted container of kombucha).

In warmer weather, the maturation of the kombucha will occur more quickly, in winter it will take longer.

If the somewhat disgusting-looking SCOBY starts growing mold, discard it and all the kombucha in the container. Since SCOBYs replicate, you’ll find you’re able to share with friends all too quickly.

Kombucha does come about because of fermentation, but the residual alcohol is so minimal that kombucha does not meet the criterion for being an alcoholic beverage. Whereas orange juice left out on the kitchen counter well could meet that criterion. The awesome thing is that you can have a beverage with a complex-flavor that doesn’t require refrigeration and provides beneficial bacteria.

All of these beverages require relatively little water to “make,” with pure water being the best of the bunch.

This entry was posted in General by Meg Stout. Bookmark the permalink.

About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but that Emma was right to assert she had been Joseph's only true wife.

30 thoughts on “The Compassionate Mormon: Drinking as though Water Matters

  1. Solar stills do not work well enough to provide you with a supply of drinking water. Water takes ,a huge amount of energy to distill. It takes so much and is so expensive that only the world’s most desperate nations even think about using it to provide drinking water.

    A small Reverse Osmosis (RO) unit or would be many times more effective if you had the power to run it. Otherwise filtration followed by boiling on a propane or natural gas stove would be the best bet.

    I am a retired Chemist.

  2. I have a solar oven and a water pasteurization indicator (WAPI), which I could use to simply pasteurize the water. But since aquaponic water tends to have a lot of nitrate, it would not be sufficient to simply pasteurize the stuff.

    We’re talking about a mere gallon or two per day for the family.

    On the other hand, in case of emergency, I think I have ways of getting the aquaponics set-up itself to consume the nitrate, by leaving the fine solids filter stage relatively unclean, which would absorb the nitrate and precipitate potassium into the water. So I could at that point satisfy myself that the nitrate levels were low enough to not be hideously unsafe and go from there.

  3. You offer thoughtful points about an important issue. However I want to make you aware of a misunderstanding. An extended drought will not limit the availability of commercial food very much in our western society. Why? Well simply because we don’t live on an island but in an interconnected world where our food comes from all over the planet and not (only) from our front garden. But of course, food storage is important and everybody should take more time to think about how he could improve his or her own food storage.

    And I have another idea for people who don’t like plain water or live in an area where their drinking water just doesn’t taste that good. I for instance get my drinking water from a huge fresh water lake about 120 miles from where I live. The water is pure and perfect for consumption. However tap water coming from an above the ground source, especially a lake, often tastes stale and not very fresh. I didn’t drink any tap water at all because of the taste. Just a few months ago I got a SodaStream machine (but the brand name is not important) and began to fizz my tap water. CO2 in the water will lower the ph value of the water and gives the water a slight sour and more refreshing appeal. That did it for me. I now actually like to drink (fizzed up) tap water. Of course you can always add some syrups of your choice if you like some flavor in your water. You can even get some modern refrigerators (from Samsung I guess, I’m not sure though) with a built-in water carbonator. In any case thereis no need to buy expensive bottled-water that comes with all the waste and the environmental impact.

    So maybe this can help people who don’t like their own tap water as I did.

  4. The amount of dissolved gasses in water certainly affect the taste. One of my professors was hired by a bottled water company to find out why their water tasted ‘flat’. After some investigation he told them to bubble air thru the water before bottling it. That fixed the problem.

    As for Meg’s replay about precipitating potassium nitrate (if I interpreted your comment correctly) out of the pond water. That will not happen KNO3 is highly soluble as are all common nitrate salts. You cannot remove nitrate that way. Taking it out via plant growth would be the only practical way. Nitrate isn’t a problem unless it gets well above 10 ppm and then only for young children.

    I am still unconvinced that your plan to distill water would work. For one thing a single distillation of contaminated water produces water that still has dissolved impurities. The Navy for example distills water eight times to produce drinking water on ships. Of course they are working with seawater which has much more dissolved material. But their stills are much more sophisticated too.

  5. Hi Agesilaus,

    I’m not talking about a pond, but aquaponics, where I have been intentionally feeding my fish at a rate calculated to produce lush plant growth. It is quite common for water in an aquaponic system to have nitrate levels well in excess of 50 ppm.

    As for solar stills, there appear to be designs which work well. For example, there is a Mother Earth News article talking about a case in Chile where a solar still was designed which purified 6000 gallons of water per day.

    I don’t need anything so extensive.

    At any rate, it’s been rather fun of late, when people ask what I drink, to be rather aggressive about drinking water rather than other beverages. It takes it from a “I’m Mormon and can’t drink anything good” experience to a “Water is amazing” sort of experience.

  6. Hi Harry,

    You said:

    “An extended drought will not limit the availability of commercial food very much in our western society. Why? Well simply because we don’t live on an island but in an interconnected world where our food comes from all over the planet and not (only) from our front garden.”

    That’s exactly the extended point of this post. When we consume coffee and hot chocolate and soda and cola, we are not growing it in our own back yards. We are paying money so that someone else can grow the coffee beans and cocoa plants, the sugar cane and vanilla beans. Each of these are unusually thirsty. So at a time when 50 million people die each year due to drought-related causes, we sit in our comfortable homes, even in times of drought, consuming water-thirsty luxury goods.

    Luckily most of us are Mormons who don’t drink coffee and cola, but we do love our chocolate and sugar and vanilla. Thus our daily “drinks” can either cost the world a few gallons of water, or they can cost the world thousands of gallons of water.

  7. meg, the numbers don’t quite match on their electrolyte solutuon.

    I know that official nutrition labels are often guilty of rounding, but here’s what I found:

    Table salt: depends on the variety, but the fine grained generic stuff has 590 mg of sodium per 1/4 tsp. 3/8 tsp would be 885 mg.

    baking soda: 1/8 tsp has 150 mg sodium, so 1/2 tsp would be 600 mg sodium.

    That’s a total of 1485 mg sodium, or 64.6 mEq. (Divide by the atomic weight, 23).

    Morton’s webpage for their no-sodium salt substitute
    shows 610 mg potassium per 1/4 tsp, which would be 15.6 mEq. (Divide by the atomic weight of 39.)

    Handy mg to mEq converter at:

    Regular table sugar is 3.75 grams per tsp (rounded up to 4 on nutrition labels) which can also be computed by dividing the calories, 15, by 4 calories per gram. Therefore, 8 tsp sugar (2 tbsp + 2 tsp) would be 30 grams, or 120 calories, or 28 calories per 8 fl oz.

    Btw, that 1485 mg of sodium per liter (33.8 fl oz) works out to 351 mg per 8 fl oz. That is over 3 times the concentration of sodium in regular Gatorade, which has 110 mg sodium per 8 fl oz. Even Gatorade Endurance series (formerly known as Professional) products have only 200 mg sodium per 8 fl oz.

    So the point of this is that that formula looks like it is intended for _life threatening_ levels of electrolyte loss, and not the levels of dehydration or electrolyte loss associated with sweating due to strenuous activity.

    Perhaps a better formula for athletes than Gatorade is Vitalyte, formerly known as Gookinade (or Gookinaid), at Their formula is 68 mg sodium, 92 mg potassium, and 10 grams of carbs (40 cal), per 8 fl oz. They claim that that is an “isotonic” solution matching the body’s normal makeup, so it would supposedly maintain the body’s electrolyte density.

  8. Yes Meg,

    I agree with your assumption. However the plants you mentioned, like coffee, sugar plants, cocoa and also a lot of tropical fruits like bananas, pineapples and the like can only be cultivated in a suitable environment, namely one with enough water. That is why most of them are being cultivated where nature provides enough rain water. Irrigation is needed sometimes but harvest will be best if the plants grow in a naturally rain/water rich region.

    And keep in mind that most people who die due to drought-related causes don’t die because they have no access to water at all, they die because they have to drink contaminated water and have no means or don’t know how to purify the water properly before consumption.

    Take coffee for instance, one of the most traded goods in the world. Coffee is harvested around the tropical belt of the earth which is naturally rain rich, namely tropical Africa, Vietnam, tropical Asia and tropical South and Middle America. If one reduces his coffee consumption his health might benefit, but the coffee farmer will suffer because his income and his ability to care for his family will drop. The same is true for cocoa.

    I know and respect that your opinion about this subject differs from mine. But for me trade means that everybody in the trade chain will benefit: I because I can enjoy my cocoa, a banana or whatever else, everyone in the trade chain, because they earn some money, and of course the farmer who produced the cocoa and banana because he will earn some money as well, can care for his family and gets a chance to improve his life.

  9. So let’s trade “coffee” for “human trafficking.”

    Sure, one could say, if I were to stop whoring around or exploiting cheap labor, I would be in a better place, but the prostitutes or exploited workers and their infrastructure depend upon me. If I were to stop interacting with these individuals, their plight would arguably be worse. Therefore it is actually virtuous that I whore around or exploit individuals who are being kept in effective slavery, because the conditions from which they were enticed into human trafficking must necessarily have been worse.

    Obviously growing any commodity isn’t directly analogous to engaging in human trafficking. The first impacts our environmental stewardship, the other leaves our environment in place but produces toxic interpersonal relationships.

    Water-thirsty crops are not grown necessarily in places where the environment supports these water extractions. One might presume, for example, that the food products grown in California are grown there because of the natural abundance of that location. However in actual fact California is naturally a desert. California has become the food producer for most of the United States by exploiting ground water reserves, without any consideration until very recently to recognizing that the ground water reserves are under extreme pressure, by one analysis (Scripps) being now 65 trillion gallons less than it had been.

    In another example, one can see in India that water-thirsty crops such as cotton are not grown where the natural resources are available, but in the locations where past farmers and infrastructure had established themselves in a less-stressed age, and so they are continuing to do what they had done in the past, despite the environment’s inability to sustain these businesses.

    You may continue to consume as you wish. However I will migrate my consumption to focus on those items that are relatively resource-conservative within their realm. As an up-side, if the scarcity I fear manifests, I will be in a position to ride out the fall-out. While those who invested their consumer dollars in the status quo might not be so well-positioned.

  10. Hi Bookslinger,

    Your comment got automatically held up in moderation because of having more than two links. Sorry about that!

    I’m always amused when my comments on my own posts get moderated. At least now I’ve figured out the reason.

    The ORS formula put together by WHO is most definitely design for life-threatening situations, rather than attempting to produce the balance produced for a sports drink like Gatorade. If you go to the website, they actually indicate that if using a drink like Gatorade as a base, it is necessarily to add sodium chloride.

    I suppose the bottom line is that I think it’s useful to:

    1) Be able to get access to safe water.
    2) Be able to get access to rehydration solution, in case of illness that causes dehydration.
    3) Be able to produce a calcium and protein rich drink without having a cow.
    4) Be able to produce an acidic drink that can be used to clean things, in a pinch.

    Are there any other drink “needs” one should plan for?

  11. Meg,

    as I said before I respect your opinion and position although my opinion differs from yours. But what I do not respect is when you – even remotely – compare free and voluntary trade of food and other goods between people with slavery (human trafficking as you call it IS slavery).

    You have your opinion and are free to keep it. And I’m free to only join factual and objective discussions. So this is the end of our little discussion.

    I wish you and your family a very blessed New Year!

  12. Hi Harry,

    Of course human trafficking is effectively slavery.

    I’m just pointing out that when we pay for certain goods, we are not merely engaging in free trade. We are determining the economic conditions for those who produce salable products. There are far too many people who are not actually free to grow what makes sense because our consumption patterns create an economic climate where choice is no longer free, and environments are being destroyed in pursuit of providing “desired” goods.

  13. Lately I have made quinoa my staple carbohydrate for various reasons including protein load and alkalinity. After reading this post I decided to find out if it created a water burden. From what I have been able to determine it actally benefits from arid conditions and grows best in poor soils at high altitudes with short growing seasons. It is now successfully cultivated in southern Colorado, making water consumed as part of transport less of an issue.
    I prepare my drinking water by adding various mineral salts that provide calcium, potassium, and magnesium to bring the ph above 8 in a gallon of ordinary spring water with an initial ph of around 7. I add sufficient ‘natural’ salt from either Utah or the Himalayas to ‘sweeten’ the slightly bitter taste. Some of the minerals tend to precipitate so I shake the container vigorously before pouring the water into a glass, which may well ‘bubble’ it a bit. The only down side of adding carbon dioxide to water by using an appliance such as Sodastream is that it results in carbonic acid which creates acid water. Plants thrive with a slightly acidic water – ph 5.5 to 6.5 while animals do best with alkalinity around ph 8. However if you drink significantly more water if it is carbonated, then that would be beneficial overall.

  14. No problem. The blog immediately informed me that the message was held for moderation, and I already knew that multiple links trigger such holds.

    meg, I think I get your overall point about not wasting supplies of fresh water, especially water pumped from aquifers or surface reservoirs that are not being naturally replenished.

    However, the point others are making is that many of these high water-using commodities such as coffee, cacao, and bananas are using excess rain water that would merely run off into rivers and oceans were it not being first filtered through those crops. And that the users of water supplied by those rivers are not being deprived because there is so much rainfall anyway. The crops are not causing a hoarding of water, neither in the soil nor in the air.

    I served my mission in the coastal regions of Ecuador, and did not see any irrigation systems in use for cacao or bananas or any crop in the coastal regions for that matter. (It may have been different for the sierras.)They had an abundance of rain. The water was not diverted or pumped up or from anywhere. If those crops had been replaced with less water-intensive crops, the net movement and destination of that rain-water would have been the same.

    I imagine the same would hold for pineapple and sugar cane crops in places like Hawaii and Cuba. And on Juan Valdez’s coffee crop in Columbia. I assume Juan Valdez is not pumping in, or pumping up, water from anywhere; that he’s using soley rainwater. The existence of those “high water crops” in those locations is not altering the hydrology of anywhere else, neither downstream, upstream, or sideways.

    However, for California, your calculus sounds much more applicable, since they are indeed pumping water out of aquifers and reservoirs, and actually diverting a lot of water from reservoirs directly to the ocean and _away_ from agriculture in order to allegedly “save” an obscure species of smelt.

    The Ogalala aquifer in the midwest US is in dire straights if I understand correctly. It has shrunk precipitously in the last 80 years and continues to shrink.

    Another problem in the US is all the municipal levees on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers that divert floodwater downstream instead of letting small floods go back out and recharge aquifers. Each “round” of levee building and levee raising (heightening) just compounds the problem for locations downstream, and shunts more water out to the Gulf instead of letting it overflow the banks, and filter back into the ground and recharge aquifers.

    Japan has done enormous hydrological engineering by creating huge cisterns to hold flood waters as buffers. We do this on a small scale in the US by requiring new building projects to create water retention ponds next to new buildings and new parking lots to buffer rainfall runoff that would otherwise have just seeped back into what was previously uncovered grass and dirt. Every new building and new parking lot causes more rainwater to go into the sewer instead of being filtered back into the water table.

    I envision “floodwater pipelines” running perpendicular to the Ohio, the Missouri, and the Mississippi rivers, in both directions away from those rivers, like ribs off of a spine. The pumps could be turned on so that water gets pumped to areas that are not receiving rain.

    Plus this…, suppose the Ohio is dumping too much water into the Mississipi, and both “sides” of the Ohio are receiving so much rain, that pumping water out perpendicular to the Ohio would not help. In that case, water could be pumped out perpendicular to the Mississippi right before the confluence with the Ohio, or water could be pumped out perpendicular to the Missouri right before the confluence with the Mississippi. Thus preventing the lower Missisippi from getting too much water.

    Small sections of the Missouri or the Ohio or the upper Mississippi rivers (just upstream of the confluences) could temporarily be lowered by pumping, in order to prevent flooding of the lower Mississippi downstream of the confluences.

    Indianapolis is about 110 miles from the Ohio river, and within that distance there are many reservoirs that currently need recharging. if Ohio river water is suitable for recharging surface reservoirs, I’d like to see some kind of feasibility study.

  15. A label I would love to see on products would tell one the water footprint of a thing, how that compared with the average, and whether the river basin that produced the good was stressed or not. With time, it would be good to see if production of the crop is alligned with the seasonal resources, not just with the overall average water use.

    As crops don’t currently carry such a label, I tend to eat items I know have a low footprint generically.

    Another reason for this sort of product transparency would be to enable market forces that help farmers improve based on increasing demand for products grown with wise stewardship.

  16. Slightly off the main point: “Unfortunately, commercial kombucha is made from regular tea leaves. Assuming you’re Mormon and don’t actually want to be storing black tea or making a beverage that contains caffeine, this can be a problem.”

    I wish commercial kombucha actually acknowledged that. I have closely read the labels of several different brands, and not one acknowledges it’s made from tea.
    I, unfortunately, actually drank one after reading the label several times, never having heard of the drink before. Then I went and looked it up online. I should have looked it up before buying the stuff.
    However, I would guess there are Mormons drinking the stuff, unaware of the tea connection, since the labels never tell you that.

  17. One problem associated with modern ‘factory’ farming that has a serious impact on potable water is the use of pesticides and fertilizers that create toxic runoff into rivers and eventually the ocean. A growing dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is attributed to such contamination from the Mississippi. This is one reason aquaponics has been receiving attention from conservationists. Because the water is recycled through a system that balances the needs of plants and aquatic animals including fish, mollusks and shell fish there is essentially no runoff. The production of most farmed products now relies on such agricultural chemicals to enhance production with the associated poisoning of downstream water, whatever the rainfall of the area.

  18. Hey Ivan,

    Just a little tip about the kombucha. Anytime you see “cha” just automatically assume tea made from the Camellia sinensis plant. The word “cha” means “tea” in Japanese (I drank a lot of mugicha as a missionary in Tokyo), and it’s probably called that in most of the Asian countries. In Arabic it’s usually pronounced “shaiy”, or “chaiy” in Iraqi, it being the same word just articulated differently.

    Cha = bad for Mormons. Or just naughty, depending on your orthodoxy.

  19. I should clarify that the aforementioned “mugicha” is an exception. It’s not a tea, just a barley drink that is steeped like traditional tea. “Mugi” means barley in Japanese. So no, I was not violating the Word of Wisdom throughout my mission.

  20. What’s the status of Yerba Mate in relation to W-o-W ?

    Back in the 80’s members in South America drank it, and missionaries did too. Then I heard somewhere that mission presidents “banned” Yerba Mate for missionaries, but it was still okay for members.

    Anyone have the scoop for what mission presidents and area/local authorities are telling members in Argentine, Chile, etc?

  21. When my husband was on his mission in Chile (1975-77), yerba mate was considered to be against the word of wisdom because it contained caffeine and was a hot drink:é

    Not sure who in the 1980s didn’t get the message, but then again I know of modern missionaries who love drinking store-bought kombucha…

  22. This is my first time posting but I couldn’t resist this particular discussion. I spend a considerable amount of time researching Kombucha before partaking as I had no desire to violate WoW guidelines, also I run a health food store and am a wellness consultant so I’ve got to have pretty good intel for my clients.
    I have not seen it mentioned yet in any of the posts so perhaps no one here is aware that black tea is the favored ingredient in Kombucha making precisely because it has the caffeine and also tannin content necessary fuel a robust fermentation. This means that to a large degree those components are consumed in the process and in their wake a more benign substance is created. This is also why manufactures don’t have to list black tea on the label, as it would now be technically inaccurate to say so. Fermentation is a transformative process where bacteria and yeast metabolize one substance and create another. Did you know for example that Xanthum Gum is often a fermented corn syrup, but rarely will an ingredient list disclose that fact for the same reason mentioned above. Fermentation is a life process and life is capable of changing the nature of a thing. An apple is not ready to eat until natural bacteria begin to develop the sugars and other factors that make it so desirable for human wellness. There is a moment when the apple is ready (in the season thereof!), and fermentation is what achieves that. If we take the apples, or more specifically the juice from them when they are ripe, we get apple cider, which is also good in the season thereof, but wait a little long and what does the fermentation give us? Hard alcoholic cider. But if we wait a little longer yet, the continued fermentation transformation eventually yields apple cider vinegar which is back on the OK list, at least for me. So to review, the apple goes from it’s pre-ripened state (not really edible) to ripened (definitely edible), to alcohol (toxic if eaten), to vinegar (edible in reasonable amounts). So is it ok to use apples or not? Depends on the timing (or the season from which we harvest the material). Tea leaves are no different, green tea leaves contain varying amounts of naturally occuring caffeine, depending on the cultivar. A natural occurring fermentation process blackens the tea leaves and substantially increases caffeine and tannins. Man has learned that if we stop the process at this point the resulting drink has an intoxicating and accordingly addictive effect. Like alcohol and coffee, the black tea leaf has become a popular substance because it can be abused. But we don’t have to abuse it, we could ferment it a little more and see what happens and in the case of Kombucha, if done properly, a mild beverage is the result. As an LDS health practitioner I can tell you in no uncertain terms I have consumed copious amounts of the stuff and there is no narcotic or toxic effect. I am so comfortable with it I have no problem letting my children drink it. By comparison I do not allow my children to drink soda pop of any kind, ever (but that is a different debate). Ironically the one danger I do find in Kombucha, and has not been touched upon in this discussion, is the alcohol content. The longer the ferment is permitted to go (in a sealed bottle) the more alcohol there is. There is about a 3 week window after the bottling process where alcohol content is very low and equivalent to say fruit which is just a bit over ripe. Much longer and alcohol levels can climb drastically. GT’s Kombucha ran into this problem and actually had to remove their product from store shelves for about 2 months, as I recall, as the California Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had discovered that in some cases, drinks sitting on the shelves waiting to be purchased were reaching alcohol levels equivalent to light beers and fuzzy navels. (to any alcohol drinker, that is not very much, but of course, it’s too much for a “non alcoholic beverage” or anyone concerned with following the WoW). Again, this was only happening in limited occationally but the manufacturer pulled the product and adjusted the process and I have never seen an especially fizzy drink come from them since. LDS people know they should not drink apple juice if it tastes too fizzy and if the same precaution is applied to Kombucha it is as safe as any fruit drink out there.

    Based on the tone of some of the comments in this discussion I will not be surprised if some of you are upset by my stance or even openly hostile but I can say with a lot of confidence I have spent far more time investigating Kombucha then you have. Not only is my health on the line but my reputation and my discipleship. I have found Kombucha, made from black tea or otherwise to be mild and remarkably beneficial. If my 4 year old gets chocolate, gluten, white sugar, cooked tomatoes or a number of other things we can tell right away that it affects him negatively, and very few mormons will bat an eye at any of those things! He is not allergic per se to anything… sensitive might be a better word, but Kombucha works fine for him. If anything it brings him down to earth and able to listen a little better, it also aides in the digestion of other food. I wish to say further; most of the LDS people I know are now drinking Kombucha, and at the risk of being a bit contentious, it is about time the LDS people started consuming something healthy. I work with LDS people all day long (Logan is 70% LDS, where I reside), unfortunately my experience has shown that the average LDS person is in worse condition than the average non LDS. There are exceptions on both sides of course, but I find that the cultural mormon diet and the greater affluence has led to negative trend in LDS health, at least in Utah and there abouts. The average mormon doesn’t drink or smoke but they love sugar, meat and carbs in large quantities and is are not too picky about quality. Rarely are the wholesome herbs even making an appearance, let alone given priority as suggested in the WoW, verse 10 (and mind you, think very carefully about the term “wholesome”). Ward dinners and scouting activities class among the worst in terms of nutrition. This is probably where I will stop as I could keep typing forever on this topic. But as culture we have a significant change ahead us if we ever want to look God in the eye where diet is concerned.

    Let’s see, I did want to weight in on Yerba Mate, I served in Brazil in 1997-99 and it was not allowed at the time, but a year after I left they reversed the policy. I questioned my president on the topic and he stated they banned it because they didn’t really know what it was and they wanted to be cautious. It does contain mild amounts of caffeine but is on par with mild green teas and like herbs. Taken in moderation and at a mild temperature it is considered herbal and not too strong for the body, according to many herbals. However, the Brazilians like to drink it scolding hot for some reason and if this is the case it can lead to throat cancer, but any sufficiently hot beverage will do that. When I read about hot drinks in the WoW I usually reflect on my days tracting in the south of Brazil and watching the people drink their scolding hot “chimarrao” as they call it, all day long. Black tea and coffee, I believe, are commonly taken too hot as well in European/American cultures which is one reason they were specifically named in early church policy as “hot drinks”. Like alcohol, they have the added distinction of being “too strong” which further qualifies their presence on the list of no-nos.

    Final thoughts, Meg, I read your 2014 posts with much interest and wish to thank you for all the information regarding Joseph Smith and Polygamy. I found them to be very helpful in my continued effort to grasp the concept polygamy and not completely collapse when the topic comes up.

    Also I liked your analogy of human trafficking above, it was a good example for explaining your point, I’m not sure why Harry choose to be offended by it and leave the conversation, but I admit I found it a bit amusing when he did.

    I wish I had more time to go into the water debate (the main topic of this conversation) but this post is probably long enough for now. I think there were good points on both sides. A few years ago I certified in program which is called Permaculture Design under a very wonderful teacher. It is topic I am very excited about and I believe I could add to the water conversation in some surprising ways but I’m hesitant to attempt all the typing it would require. I would encourage you and your readers however to investigate permaculture water harvesting, particularly the work of Brad Lancaster. It’s game changing stuff.

  23. Hi Josh,

    One of the reasons I use rooibos and honeybush is that these are the only teas that don’t derive from camellia sinensis that can produce a good kombucha.

    As for whether kombucha transforms all the sugars and caffeine in the process of fermentation, Sandor Ellix Katz writes in The Art of Fermentation:

    As for caffeine, when herbalist Christopher Hobbs submitted a sample of kombucha to a laboratory for analysis, it was found to contain 3.42 mg/100 ml–much less than is typically found in a cup of tea, but most definitely present. Michael Roussin reports that according to his laboratory analyses, caffeine levels remain constant throughout the kombucha fermentation period. Specific caffeine levels will vary with type and amount of tea, length of steeping, and so forth. The notion that kombucha removes caffeine from tea is unsubstantiated; if you wish to avoid caffeine, make kombucha using weak or decaffeinated tea.

    I’m glad my Faithful Joseph posts were helpful, and I’m similarly glad that you understood the point of my human trafficking analogy.

    With respect to water stewardship, permaculture can do a lot. I adore Max Meyers, who has participated in several of our Aquaponics Association conferences.

    However in these posts I am talking about the global metrics for measuring water consumption, reflected in ISO 14046 and expounded upon in over a hundred scientific publications since 2004, when UNESCO’s Professor Arjen Hoekstra developed the three-fold method of calculating water consumption and virtual water flows between nations. This led to the formation of the waterfootprint network, and most nations that use metric (all nations except the USA, Mianmar, and Liberia) are on board with the concept of water footprint.

    The satellites launched by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) in 2002 have measured the massive depletion of many aquifers as local communities (e.g., California) pump ground water to make up for the lack of precipitation. In addition to the trillions of gallons of water GRACE has documented as depleted, Scripps used high precision GPS measurements to estimate the total amount of water lost (based on elevation changes due to the difference in ground density due to water loss). They find that an estimated 63 trillion gallons of water has been lost from the western states of the United States. That’s an insanely huge amount of water loss. Given that over 90% of global fresh water consumption goes to agriculture (primarily food), constrained water ultimately means constrained food supplies.

  24. Following this revelation, there was some dispute among Church members about what exactly was meant by “hot drinks.” Tea? Coffee? Soup? Eventually, in 1842 Joseph Smith’s brother and fellow Church leader Hyrum Smith gave a sermon and clarified the matter in this way: “And again ‘hot drinks are not for the body, or belly;’ there are many who wonder what this can mean; whether it refers to tea, or coffee, or not. I say it does refer to tea, and coffee.”

    Modern Church leaders have not offered any more definitive interpretations on which kinds of tea might be permissible. The most recent handbook just says, “The only official interpretation of “hot drinks” (D&C 89:9) in the Word of Wisdom is the statement made by early Church leaders that the term “hot drinks” means tea and coffee.”

    This open-endedness has led Latter-day Saints to speculate about what exactly is in tea and coffee that is harmful. Is it the caffeine? The tannic acid? The high temperature? If it is the caffeine (a common speculation), then should we also shun colas, energy drinks, and chocolate? Is decaf okay?

    The First Presidency gave a statement on cola in 1973, “With reference to cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised, and we do now specifically advise, against the use of any drink containing harmful habit-forming drugs under circumstances that would result in acquiring the habit. Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided.”

  25. OK, sorry, not sure why the first post didn’t work, here is the whole response:

    I suppose I should have clarified that I don’t claim caffeine to be absent from Kombucha but that the levels are mild. Additionally the caffeine in Kombucha is naturally present as opposed caffeine which is manufactured and added, such as in the case of soda pop. First let’s consider this tidbit from
    To understand how synthetic caffeine interacts with the body, it’s important to know how it’s made. The process takes place in a lab or a factory and involves the chemical synthesis of urea, which is exposed to a variety of harsh chemicals such as methyl chloride and ethyl acetate. When the process is complete the caffeine created is a very pure isolate that is highly concentrated. Caffeine made in this way is absorbed and processed quickly in the digestive system, which is why consuming products containing synthetic caffeine generally results in a very sharp increase in energy and the all-to-common “crash” reported by so many drinkers.
    Natural caffeine on the other hand is made by unique, caffeine producing members of the plant kingdom. Currently, we know of around 60 species that have evolved this trait. When these plants are harvested for consumption, the caffeine present isn’t all that different from its synthetic counterpart. What makes it unique is the additional presence of plant-based vitamins and nutrients found alongside the caffeine. These companion compounds help balance out the caffeine’s effects. Additionally, natural forms of caffeine are far less concentrated than isolated synthetics. The result is a more balanced experience where users report a pleasant lift, sustained energy, and a gradual descent from the caffeine’s effects.
    Hawaiinola produces a drink which contains caffeine so they are accordingly biased, but I concur with their sentiments and point out that the Lord directed us to use herbs in their wholesome form, with prudence, the above quotation gives us a possible insight into that statement.
    Let’s look at the relative values now:
    Kombucha contains approximately 3 mgs of caffeine per ounce, this amount varies but we will use your number of 3.4.
    Green and Black Tea’s contain 3.6 to 12.3 mgs per ounce.
    Coffee contains 11.4 to 25 mgs per ounce.
    Clearly Kombucha’s caffeine levels are mild compared to black tea and coffee.
    If caffeine levels are not reduced during fermentation they are reduced somehow. However, the debate is not whether there is any caffeine in Kombucha but how much and what the effect on the body is. The Word of Wisdom did not prohibit caffeine, it prohibited “hot drinks”. I found this bit on which I think is about the best statement I’ve seen to date on the subject:
    “Following this revelation, there was some dispute among Church members about what exactly was meant by “hot drinks.” Tea? Coffee? Soup? Eventually, in 1842 Joseph Smith’s brother and fellow Church leader Hyrum Smith gave a sermon and clarified the matter in this way: “And again ‘hot drinks are not for the body, or belly;’ there are many who wonder what this can mean; whether it refers to tea, or coffee, or not. I say it does refer to tea, and coffee.”
    Modern Church leaders have not offered any more definitive interpretations on which kinds of tea might be permissible. The most recent handbook just says, “The only official interpretation of “hot drinks” (D&C 89:9) in the Word of Wisdom is the statement made by early Church leaders that the term “hot drinks” means tea and coffee.”
    This open-endedness has led Latter-day Saints to speculate about what exactly is in tea and coffee that is harmful. Is it the caffeine? The tannic acid? The high temperature? If it is the caffeine (a common speculation), then should we also shun colas, energy drinks, and chocolate? Is decaf okay?
    The First Presidency gave a statement on cola in 1973, “With reference to cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised, and we do now specifically advise, against the use of any drink containing harmful habit-forming drugs under circumstances that would result in acquiring the habit. Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided.””
    Now I am a big fan of Hyrum Smith but as far as I can tell, his statement here is the origin of the hot drinks = tea and coffee concept and I don’t necessarily feel he was wrong in saying it but the terms are vague. The First Presidency’s statement is much more helpful. Any drink that is habit forming or harmful to the body should be avoided. As far as my family is concerned and those I have interacted with, I find no habit forming issue with commercial Kombucha or any harmful effect and my profession is in wellness, so I say this as someone who spends a lot of time in this area.
    Ironically I do find peanuts and chocolate to be somewhat habit forming to my body and they don’t feel very good during digestion. I believe the Lord will ask me about my peanut butter habit long before he broaches the topic of Kombucha.
    All of that being said… Rooibus is a wonderful herb and if you can get a good Kombucha out of it then so much the better. But be prepared, Kombucha is becoming one of the most common drinks in the country and many LDS are on board. Whatever you believe about it, I think if you try it in your own body you will find it a lot better than the average soda pop, caffeine or no.

  26. Hi Josh,

    The number cited in the excerpt from The Art of Fermentation indicates one individual claimed kombucha (presumably made from black tea) contains 3.42 mg/100 ml. An ounce is 28.35 grams, and since metric is such a nice system, for most liquids, the number of ml is the same as the number of grams. So this indicates that particular measurement would be 0.97 mg/oz.

    I think it’s quite possible that the things given to us in the Word of Wisdom combined to reduce economic and environmental dependencies that would be harmful to the Saints moving forward. Obviously, there are also health benefits. However the bits about eating fruits and vegetables in season and avoiding hot drinks (in the day understood to mean coffee and tea, as you mention) are today associated with keeping a minimal carbon and water footprint.

    As for obedience, if the Church requested that I wear a purple tattoo on my left temple as a symbol that I believed, I would do it. As it is, they have asked that I refrain from drinking coffee and tea (camellia sinensis versus herbal teas). Therefore I will refrain from drinking these, even if it made absolutely no sense to refrain from drinking them.

  27. I don’t avoid caffeine, and whether the “caffeine” is natural or not makes little difference. We’ve been asked to avoid tea (not caffeine) to be temple worthy, and so I avoid it. Since Kombucha is made from tea, no matter how much the fermentation “changes” it, I won’t drink it.

    I pretty much agree 100% with Meg’s last paragraph (the one about the purple tattoo).

  28. I don’t see any mention of almond milk. A co-worker has a bucket of raw almonds and makes his own almond milk at home. It doesn’t have the estrogen that soy milk has and I hear is not very difficult to make. The advantage with soy is the possibility of making tofu if the right ingredients are stored as well. I have not done any of these yet, but I am thinking about it.


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