White House: Drink More Water

Michelle Obama is teaming up with corporations to change Americans' drinking habits in a campaign that has its share of critics.

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Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Michelle Obama speaking about the Let’s Move campaign in Washington, July 10, 2013.

First Lady Michelle Obama is launching an initiative to get people drinking more water. The campaign, called Drink Up, kicks off Thursday in the aptly named Watertown, Wisc. and is the latest effort in her 3-year-old Let’s Move campaign to get Americans living healthier lives.

Inspiring Drink Up is the realization that Americans are far from adequately hydrated. Though the Associated Press reports that water consumption is on the rise, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 43% of U.S. adults drink less than four cups of water every day and 7% of adults drink no water at all: a far cry from the eight 8oz glasses that have long been touted as the recommended daily amount. Even more worryingly, Drink Up says that a nearly a quarter of the nation’s children do not drink any water on a daily basis but instead meet their liquid needs with sugary drinks.

While those numbers indicate a serious problem, officials say that Drink Up will adopt an encouraging rather than hectoring tone.

“We’re being completely positive in our messaging, every participating [water] company has agreed to only encourage people to drink water, not focus on what people shouldn’t drink or even why their water might be better. It is just more water,” said Lawrence Soler, the president of the Partnership for a Healthier America, a nonprofit launched in conjunction with the Let’s Move campaign.

(MORE: Study Shows the Perils of a Heavy Bottled-Water Habit)

The CDC says that simply eliminating sugary drinks can cut as many as 650 calories from a person’s daily caloric intake. However, the campaign will steer away from negative messages against specific types of drinks. Efforts to target soda, such as proposed taxes on its consumption, have failed in states across the country because of well-funded resistance from industry lobbyists. An attempt to ban large servings of soda in New York City was similarly ill-fated.

Drink Up’s decision to avoid taking on the soda companies is sure to garner its share of critics, in the same way that the Let’s Move campaign has been taken to task for its emphasis on exercise and failure to attack the role of junk food and poor nutrition in America’s obesity epidemic.

However, Soler says the campaign is “actually trying to learn from the private sector and engage people in positive way that’s more inspiring.”  This, he argues, will be “the most effective way to make sure people are getting the water they need.”

The cities of Chicago and Houston have already joined the campaign, as has Los Angeles County. Civic backers pledge to promote water consumption through signage and social media. PSAs will begin popping up on broadcast stations beginning Thursday.

The Drink Up campaign is  working with the American Beverage Association and the International Bottled Water Association, as well as several bottled water companies, including Aquafina, Voss, Poland Spring and Deer Park, who will carry the campaign’s water-drop logo on their products, websites and trucks.

MORE: Soda Contributes to Behavior Problems Among Young Children