Environmental campaigners have attacked Starbucks after the discovery that millions of litres of water are wasted in its coffee shops every day, contradicting its much-boasted green credentials.
An investigation by the Sun revealed that over 23.4m litres of water are poured down the drains of 10,000 outlets worldwide due to a policy of keeping a tap running non-stop.
It is enough daily water for the entire 2 million population of Namibia in Africa, which has severe droughts, or to fill an Olympic pool every 83 minutes.
A single Starbucks tap left running for just over three minutes wastes the amount of water one African needs to survive for a day in drought conditions.
Each Starbucks has a cold tap behind the counter that runs into a sink known as a "dipper well" - used to wash utensils.
Under the company's health and safety rules, staff are banned from turning the water off because management claim that a constant flow of water prevents germs breeding in taps.
Water companies joined green activists in criticising the firm for harming the environment and wasting a vital natural resource. Experts said leaving taps running for hygiene reasons was "nonsense".
Water shortage is one of the world's biggest problems. Australia is in the grip of a seven-year drought - the worst in a century.
In the UK, Starbucks has 698 branches, each open for 13 hours a day. Even a slow tap flows three litres of water a minute, meaning Starbucks in the UK is wasting an estimated 1.63m litres a day - enough to supply Matlock village in Derbyshire.
The running water policy was revealed after a Starbucks executive wrote back to a couple who complained about the tap at their local branch.
Lisa Woolfe, 39, of Cuffley, Hertfordshire, said: "I noticed a small sink behind the counter had its tap running. The assistant said the store was told to keep it running as it cleaned the pipes.
"I could not believe it but when we contacted head office, they confirmed the taps were left on and the water was not recycled.
"It is an absolutely astonishing waste of water, especially for a company which prides itself on its green credentials."
Full Story: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/oct/06/water.drought