13-Gallon Challenge – Day Two

drinking water, international, outreach, research, water availability

Yesterday, I began the 13-Gallon Challenge – a pledge to live on a human right allocation of 50 liters (13 gallons) of water each day for a period of one week. So far, this pledge has been a great way for me to analyze my daily water use and, in general, think about water consumption. To record my water use, I keep a journal with me throughout the day. After I use water (for example: toilet flushing, hand washing, dish washing), I write it in my journal. This task has been a bit more challenging than one might expect.

My first day of the water pledge, I was at work during the day. Unfortunately, the automatic-flush toilets really ramped up my water usage. At least the toilets were the low-flow variety. Also, I noticed that sometimes my water use occurs on auto-pilot. I use water before I realize that I’m using water: washing my hands, flushing the toilet, or rinsing a dish. But, when you have to write it down, you really start to NOTICE these things. Throughout the day, I thought “there goes 1.6 gallons, there goes 1 gallon,” and it all adds up.

Here are my water use totals. Notice, no shower.

Day Two

Yesterday, I exceeded my limit by a half-gallon. Today, I am under my limit by a half-gallon to make-up for this exceedance. And, I’ve even managed a 3-minute shower. In general, my water usage is consistent with data provided by the American Water Works Association (AWWA). Almost 50 percent, 6.4 gallons, of my water use is for sanitation. Our friend at Water Crunch created this great graph that shows percentages of water used in a typical home in the United States using data from AWWA. As you can see, toilets use the most water.

Percentage of Total Daily Use by Gallons per Capita

6 thoughts on “13-Gallon Challenge – Day Two

  1. A good way to look at this is from the standpoint of a sea voyage on a small sailboat or a long trek across the desert. Thirteen gallons per day would be unbelievably extravagent (of course, on the ocean, you can use sea water for some things). I think the daily shower should be relegated to the past. Up until the 1950’s, a twice-a-week bath was considered standard, at least around where I was. Other times, what my mother used to call a “spit bath,” using a washcloth in the sink or a bucket, is adequate. Of course, “yellow is mellow.”

    Black River Pete

    1. Hi Pete.

      Yes, in some situations 13 gallons would be more than enough water for drinking and, possible, basic sanitation. But, forget the multitude of clean clothes and baths/showers. This week, I have been dirtier than usual, for sure. And, the washcloth has become my friend.

      – Abby

  2. You are right that so much of water use in developed countries is unconscious. I imagine if we had to go to a central place to get water in buckets we would be much more aware of how much we use. Thanks for doing this, and especially for the links to water audits.

    1. Rebecca.

      Thanks for your comment. You’re right. One thing I’ve noticed during my 13-Gallon Challenge is that I am unable to take a shower without using up my full day’s allocation of water or do any laundry, period (one load of laundry = 41 gallons). Even if I washed my laundry by hand, it would still require copious amounts of water. However, I also have a job in a professional workplace and attend school. Luckily, I had some clean clothes when I started this one-week challenge. Now, I am running out of clean clothes. Usually, to clean my body I use a washcloth or take a short shower (and, use most of my allocation for the day). These are decisions that I have to make. If you are interested in taking a similar challenge, just try it for a day. Even in one day, you might begin to notice some habits about your water usage and begin to understand how people in other places in the world might feel.

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