13-Gallon Challenge – Day Six

Today is the sixth day of my 13-Gallon Challenge – a pledge to live on an allocation of water declared to be a human right for one week. You may wonder, what is a human right to water? Well, the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) defined a human right to water as:

“The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. An adequate amount of safe water is necessary to prevent death from dehydration, reduce the risk of water-related disease and provide for consumption, cooking, personal and domestic hygienic requirements”.

(General Comment 15, CESCR, 2002)
Courtesy Tdh WASH Resource Correspondence

In 1996, Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute estimated a basic human water need at 25 liters per day for consumption, cooking, bathing, washing and another 25 liters per day for sanitation at a total of 50 liters (13.2 gallons) per person per day. Over the past six days, I have attempted to keep my water usage under 50 liters (13 gallons app.) each day. I have engaged in this task to learn more about my daily water-use habits. People in the United States use an estimated 70 to 100 gallons each day, but there are people all over the world that live on much, much less.

In my journal, I record approximate water use totals. For example, if I use the sink for 30 seconds, this equals ½ gallon of water because my low-flow faucets use 1 gallon of water per minute. If I am in an unfamiliar location such as work or at school (unless otherwise noted), I assume that fixtures are not low-flow. Then, I use estimated calculations for water use. You can find some water use estimations here.

Here are my water use totals from yesterday.

Day Five

At this point, I have run out of most of my clean garments. (I only had some clean clothing at the beginning of this challenge.) My washer uses 41 gallons of water for each load, so I cannot use it. This morning, I will hand wash a few of my things. This week, I have started to notice that water systems in the United States are not constructed to conserve water. In some situations, 13 gallons of water might be a sufficient amount of water for daily life. But, in the US, our infrastructure is built to use water.  Some regions may have ample water supplies to support such water-hungry fixtures and appliances. Still, in many other arid, drought-prone, or rapidly developing places, water conservation is essential to providing water to everyone for all water needs.

My brother-in-law asked me the other day, “why do you need to conserve water when water is recycled, replenished to the natural system through rainfall”? In reply, I said “why do you need to conserve water?” It is up to each one of use to be aware of the water situation in our community. Does your community have sufficient water supplies? What is the projected population growth in your area? Does your community have a future water supply plan?

In addition, we cannot forget about virtual water – water embedded in the products that we use. If we are consuming foods or using products that take a lot of water to produce (such as beef or cotton) and these products are produced in water scarce regions. Then, our consumption of these products does affect water use in these water scarce regions. Note: I have not included virtual water in my daily calculations.

My water use totals this week, so far…




  1. Somebody sent a link to your blog to those of us working on water issues in Washington for faith groups – we think what you are doing is terrific – and raises a lot of important issues. Your point about appliance use of water is especially good – we have an EPA Energy Star Program, but I don’t know that there is any equivalent for water, and it seems there should be.

  2. Christina, I think what Abby is doing is cool, too. By the way, EPA does have a water verison of the Energy Star Program. It’s called WaterSense and you can learn more about it here: http://www.epa.gov/watersense/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: