Water Resolutions for the New Year

Recently someone asked me “Do you track your water use?” I thought thoroughly about my reply to that question. In many ways I conserve water: only flushing the toilet when necessary, turning off the faucet during hand washing and teeth brushing, taking short showers, limiting outdoor watering, and only washing full loads of clothes and dishes. But do I track my water use – in detail – gallon by gallon?

Well, our three-person (two-unit) household does keep track of monthly water use through our utility bills. On average, our household uses 216.92 gallons per day. That equals 72.3 gallons per person each day. Now, I’m ashamed to say this is higher than the average in my town of 66 gallons per person each day. So where are we going wrong? I’m a water-conscious person, but my house and the attached mother-in-law unit are still exceeding the municipal average.

This new year, I’ve decided to make two important resolutions:

  1. Conduct a Household Water Audit
  2. Live for One Week on a Human Right Allocation of Water

It is my hope that these actions will reduce my water consumption and raise my awareness about the importance of access to water. Read on to follow my endeavors in the new year.

Conduct a Household Water Audit

Today, I conducted something called a water audit. A water audit is method to evaluate the efficiency of a water system and estimate daily water use. First, I checked and changed all of the water faucets in my home to low-flow water faucets that only use 1 gallon per minute. Then, I changed my showerhead to a low-flow showerhead that only uses 1.6 gallons per minute.

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Luckily, I already have a low-flow toilet that uses 1.6 gallons per flush. Next, I checked my municipal water meter to see if it was recording leaks. Then, I used a bit of food coloring to check my toilet for leaks.

Cheap Leak Check

Finally, I made signs to identify the amount of water necessary for all of my fixtures and appliances. It is my hope this last step will serve as a reminder for myself and my housemates. If you are interested in completing a water audit on your home, there are several step-by-steps available. Try this audit or this audit or this audit.

Water Use Totals for Fixtures and Appliances

Live for One Week on a Human Right Allocation of Water

I’ve been interested in the idea of water as a human right for a while. Declaring water a human right will require that a certain amount of water will always be available for free to humans. This measure is to ensure that those without money still have access to water. Obviously, access to water is important because water is necessary for life. As posted recently on Water Wired, in 1996 Peter Gleick suggested a human right allocation of water at 50 liters (13 gallons) each day for basic human needs such as bathing, sanitation, and drinking. The Constitution of South Africa also acknowledges water as a human right, and courts declared this amount to be 50 liters each day. So, I wonder, how does it feel to live on 50 liters (13 gallons) each day? There’s only one way to find out.

For one week, I will live on this amount estimated as a basic human right. This means, I will count every toilet flush, every hand wash, and probably miss most showers. I will live on this human right allocation at home, at work, and everywhere. Tomorrow, I will begin. My journal of this undertaking will be posted to Water for the Ages. Stay tuned.

Happy New Year!

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Comments

  1. Fascinating! This shows on how much more water we live than is our fair share!

    Water greetings – and keep up the good work!

    Alexa Fleckenstein M.D., physician, author.

  2. Late post, but an interesting and complex topic. A couple of things spring to mind:

    1. When we’re camping, we use very low water techniques for many things – re-using dish water to clean other things and dish rinse water again as wash water next time, a small black bag hanging in a tree (a commercial product “solar shower”) with 2-3 gallons of water for your morning ablutions forces conservation (and makes it easier!). There is a technique for washing hair with 1 cup of water (maybe two for lots of hair); of course, there is no laundry or flush toilets. Packing all your water in forces conservation, and it quickly becomes second nature.

    2. Water as a “right” is more complicated than a declaration or political/judicial ruling. Some live near a large water source (flowing river, etc), and some don’t, forcing wells and pumping. I could watch the river flow by and deprive myself down to a 50 liter per day limit, to be in solidarity with others less fortunate, but I’d gain nothing (but pious self-satisfaction), and those unfortunate others would gain nothing by my selfless act. I suppose “water consciousness” is a worthwhile goal in and of itself, but it is still a somewhat academic exercise to deprive myself needlessly, while really helping no one else in the process. Geography and many other factors conspire to make water access easy for some and hard for others.

    3. I like the idea of having to go somewhere to bring back your water in a bucket. Rather like our camping experience, that would really bring it home. Visiting my grandparents in rural Utah long ago (early 60s), we had to do just that, driving 2 miles to a well and filling 2-3 5-gallon cans for the days’ needs. The toilet was an outhouse, and the washing machine was a 10-gallon tub-affair with a “modern” attachment of a small gas-powered agitator, with a hand-cranked dual-roller wringer. Everything went on the clothes line to dry. This was commonplace back then, across rural America, although shortly the rural electrification project reached those boondocks at last, and all those last “hick” vestiges vanished shortly thereafter.

    Such times were once the norm, even in the US. When we “advanced” beyond them, much was gained, but something was lost as well… not often lamented, but perhaps it should be.

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