Water has long been a staple in the diets of many of the world’s poorest people.
Now it is one of the biggest ingredients in many of our favourite products.
But it is also under threat.
The world’s most populous nation of India, which consumes over one-fifth of global consumption, is now in the grip of a water crisis.
In March, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the situation is serious, with more than 2.5 billion people facing “severe water scarcity”.
While India has been among the world leaders in the fight against water scarcity, it is in danger of repeating its mistakes in the US.
“We’re not doing a great job in terms of how we’re managing this,” says Dr Michael Smith, director of the Centre for International Water Policy (CiWP), an international water research group at the University of Sussex.
“People in the poorest countries are consuming water the same way as the rich countries do.”
Water is a vital commodity in many countries, especially in the developing world.
It helps to provide clean water for people, clean sewage to help clean the water table, and irrigate crops and crops with water.
But water is also a crucial part of agriculture.
In many developing countries, crops are grown in waterlogged areas.
“It’s a critical part of a country’s economy,” says Smith.
India’s government, which owns much of the country’s water, is also grappling with a growing appetite for bottled water.
The country has some of the highest consumption rates of any country on the planet, and the lack of good, affordable water has led to an epidemic of diarrhoea and cholera.
Water is also key to the livelihoods of millions of people in Africa and Asia, where most people live on less than $1.25 a day.
India has the world at its mercy.
“India is a water-rich country,” says Mr Jayanthi Ramaswamy, a senior research fellow at the Centre on Globalisation and Development at the London School of Economics.
“The problem is that its population is so big, that its water consumption is so high, and there is a very big potential for corruption in the government.”
In a country where drinking water is a basic human right, many people are reluctant to take the risk of getting their water from a company.
Many people, especially young people, have been told they have to buy bottled water for household use.
In January, the Indian government announced it would charge for water, and allow private companies to sell water in a “single-use” price for households.
“When we started talking about it in January, we thought, ‘this is a bit strange’,” says Dr Samajwadi Singh, who runs a Delhi-based water clinic.
“But I thought it was a great opportunity for India.”
The new policy is part of the government’s push to tackle a public health crisis.
“This is a new way of dealing with water scarcity,” says Jayanthu Ramakrishnan, director at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), an independent water research institute in New Delhi.
He says it is an effort to address the challenges of poor countries where water is scarce but not priced at retail.
In India, where households spend over a third of their income on water, some people do not even know their own water consumption.
“In some ways, we’re starting to get it, but it’s not a quick fix,” says Ramakhaman.
“Some people will say, ‘you’re right, water is expensive, but I’m not paying for it.'”
“If we can fix this problem, we can save millions of lives,” he says.
In the US, the biggest consumer of bottled water is Coca-Cola, which is the largest manufacturer of bottled soft drinks.
In 2016, the company sold 1.9 billion bottles of Coke, according to the Beverage Marketing Association (BMA).
Coca-cola also sells more than two billion litres of water per day in India, and sells it in water-resistant bottles.
The company is facing growing pressure from India’s health minister to take more steps to protect the water supply.
The new measures will be taken “at a very early stage,” says Amitabh Sinha, Coca-Cola India’s president.
The BMA has been lobbying the government to allow the private sector to sell bottled water in an “unlimited” price.
But the government is not taking up the issue.
“That’s a good start, but that’s not the big picture,” says Sinha.
“I think we need to go a little bit deeper.
What we’re trying to do is make sure that all of the water is available to the people in the country.”
As of January, PepsiCo, the world leader in soft drink brands, is selling 500 million bottles of water a day, according a report