13-Gallon Challenge – WRAP UP

drinking water, international, outreach, sustainability

Well, I made it. Yesterday was the last day of my 13-Gallon Challenge. All told, this was a completely worthwhile project. I had two goals at the beginning of the challenge: 1) to better understand my daily water use habits, and 2) to understand how it feels to live on a human right allocation of 50 liters (13 gallons app.) of water each day. For the most part, I achieved these goals.

Over the week, I became intimately familiar with my daily water-use habits. Whenever I could, I tried to reduce or limit my water use. Even this morning (after the challenge), I couldn’t help but use the stop-watch again for my shower. See, habits really do die hard. Yet, living with indoor plumbing in an 1100 square-foot house, it would be difficult for me to ever approximate the life of someone in a developing country through this 13-Gallon Challenge. The water challenges that many people throughout the world face are much greater – think carrying water for eight-hours each day or human feces littered on the ground. But, at least I started educate myself and others about the water-access challenges that many endure.

Okay, I must admit I am a little happy to be done. Mostly, because I want to wash a load of laundry. Also, because it was difficult to calculate my water use every day for a week. First, I had to remember to write down my water use immediately after each usage. Then, I had to estimate each usage. Luckily, I settled on over-estimating each usage (rounding up) which made my calculations a bit easier in the long run. So, if I drank three cups of drinking water throughout the day, I would just write .25 gallons of drinking water. Remember, there are 16 cups in a gallon.

Here are my water use totals from yesterday.

day-7-pdf-pages

Every day of my weekly water use totals will soon be posted on the 13-Gallon Challenge Page at the top of my blog. And it will also be a place for you to take a one-day version of the 13-Gallon Challenge. Check back soon.

 

 

13-Gallon Challenge – Day Six

drinking water, drought, international, outreach, research, sustainability, water availability

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…

all-water-use-totals2

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

Water Resolutions for the New Year

drinking water, drought, groundwater, international, outreach, sustainability, water availability

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.

dscf1619

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!

Blue Planet Run: The Race to Provide Safe Drinking Water to the World – A Book Review

climate change, drinking water, drought, economy, groundwater, international, outreach, photos, water availability, water conflict

As readers of Water for the Ages may have noticed, I’ve been on an extended holiday break (to visit family in East Tennessee). Arriving back to the Pacific Northwest, my mailbox was full with letters, bills, Christmas Cards, and other postal paraphernalia. Yet, to my surprise, there was one mysteriously large and somewhat heavy package addressed to me.

me-and-book-2

Soon, I discovered this large package was a massive, coffee-table sized book called Blue Planet Run: The Race to Provide Safe Drinking Water to the World published by the Blue Planet Run Foundation in San Francisco, California. The Blue Planet Run book was published to raise money to assist in meeting the Blue Planet Run Foundation’s goal of providing safe drinking water to 200 million people by 2027. One hundred percent of all royalties from the sale of this book will be used to fund drinking water projects around the world.

photo-from-book

Opening the book, I was immediately transported around the world through the vivid photographs that graced cover to cover. These images, taken by photojournalists over a period of one-month last year, tell the stories of rapid development and its effect on water supplies, dam construction, access to water in crowded cities, new water technologies, and leaders who are making strides in water access and supply. Several essays are also featured throughout the book written by authors including Robert Redford, Diane Ackerman, Paul Hawken, and Bill McKibben.

And, after coming home to indoor plumbing and plenty of fresh water, this book helps me remember (during this holiday season) just how lucky I really am.

Vital Water Graphics

international, outreach, photos, united nations

I’ve uploaded a new link to the Podcasts & Web-Media page on Water for the Ages. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has just released an updated 2008 version of a report called Vital Water Graphics: An Overview of the State of the World’s Fresh and Marine Waters. The goal of this report “is to produce a clear overview, through a set of graphics, maps and other illustrations, of the current state of the world’s fresh, coastal and marine waters.”

Some graphical topics in this report include:

  • Freshwater Resources
  • freshwater-world

    • Water and Climate Change

    climate-change-world

    AfriGadget Water Gadget

    africa, international, technology

    Have you ever heard of an Elephant Pump? Today, I found out that an Elephant Pump is a low-cost well pump based on a type used in China over 2,000 years ago. It can be made with local materials and is powered through a contraption that looks much like a bicycle.

    How did I figure this out? A friend sent me a link to the awesome website AfriGadget. This site is dedicated to showcasing the ingenuity of Africans. Reusing products like old keyboards, plastic bottles, and other assorted items to devise bottle openers, shoe-shine stands, bamboo bikes, and even a biodiesel conversion kit. They bring the word sustainability to a whole new level.

    Also, they have a whole section on sanitation and water – how to build “keyhole” gardens, directions for a VIP (Ventilated Pit Latrine), Homemade Water Filters, Kick Start Pumps, and more. AfriGadget really should team up with Akvopedia, another open-source water and sanitation destination.

    How to Make a Homemade Water Filter (from AfriGadget)

    Over at kikuyumoja’s realm, JKE makes a water filter using little more than a couple of plastic containers, a ceramic element and loads of ingenuity.
    wf1
    wf2
    Above Photo: AfriGadget

    Water and the Next U.S. President

    drinking water, drought, economy, general, groundwater, international, water availability, water conflict

    The economy, health care, Iraq, government spending, nuclear proliferation… What else should the incoming president of the United States focus on?

    Water – as noted recently in WIRED magazine by leading water researcher, Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a think-tank in California that works to “advance environmental protection, economic development, and social equity.” Mr. Gleick’s eight proposals to the next president include focusing on water at home and abroad.

    Check out the WIRED page to view the eight hypothetical slides. The text is quoted below:

    1. The US mismanages water at all levels. For instance, states compete for resources.
      Proposal: Establish a non-partisan national water commission to recommend policy changes
    2. Drought costs $6-8 billion a year. Rivers are over-allocated. Reservoir levels are falling.
      Proposal: Promote water conservation to reduce pressure on limited supplies.
    3. Domestic water supplies and systems are vulnerable to multiple security threats.
      Proposal: Improve monitoring. Hold water-security workshops at the US War Colleges, State Department, CIA, and DHS.
    4. Water has profound implications for international security as well.
      Proposal: Empower the US State Department to address global water-related disputes.
    5. Nearly 1 billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water…
      Proposal: Fund clean-water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in the developing world.
    6. ..leading to 2.5 million deaths annually from preventable illnesses and malnutrition.
      Proposal: Take a leadership role in eliminating waterborne diseases.
    7. Climate change will intensify flooding, storms, drought, and disease.
      Proposal: Factor the effect of climate change on water supplies into all new infrastructure projects.
    8. Taking water seriously is a no-brainer.
      Proposal: Put water at the center of your administration’s strategic agenda.

    For more information on McCain’s and Obama’s views on water policy, see here and here and here.

    Prepaid Water Meters, Price of Water

    africa, drinking water, economy, international, sustainability, technology, water availability, water conflict

    As the recent disruption in the worldwide economy suggests, we have a global economic system. This economic system relies heavily on the concept of supply and demand. We allocate a price to anything tradeable in the economy. These tradeable goods run the gamut from clothes, chemicals, televisions, homes, drugs, cars, tools, land, food, and even water. Water is sold in our economy in a variety of ways in the commercial, private, and public sectors. While placing a value on water may encourage conservation of water supplies in some situations, not everyone in the world has the means to pay money for water. Case in point, prepaid water meters.

    Prepaid meters are hooked to a water-supply system and require the user pay before retrieving water. US-based NGOs Public Citizen and Food and Water Watch warn of the dangers of prepaid water meters in predominantly poor areas of the world. Prepaid water meters are currently used in Brazil, Curacao, Egypt, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, the Philippines, Uganda, and the United States. The photos below are from Tetsane, Maseru (Lesotho) in South Africa during April 2008.

    A recent article in ADBUSTERS detailed the plight of one South African community challenging the legality of prepaid water meters. In 2006, several residents of Phiri, Soweto filed a suit against the City of Johannesburg in South Africa declaring that prepaid water meters were unconstitutional. A landmark ruling earlier this year affirmed the unconstitutionality of prepaid water meters in Phiri. The ruling also declared that the City should provide Phiri residents with 50 liters (roughly 13 gallons) of free water for every person each day instead of the previous allocation of 25 liters for every person each day. This ruling was a success for the citizens of Phiri in South Africa, but there are still many other towns around the world facing similar challenges with prepaid water meters. For more information, please visit the Public Citizen and Food and Water Watch websites.

    Akvopedia: Open Source for Water Technology

    drinking water, general, international, investments, outreach, photos, sanitation, sustainability, technology, water availability, water treatment

    The new website Akvopedia shares knowledge of water and sanitation technology, open source style, to ensure these resources are available to more people worldwide.

    Open Source: (in computing) Of, or relating to a product which is licensed to permit modifications and redistribution [for free] of its source code.
    Wiktionary

    Linux, the One Laptop Per Child (XO laptop) project, the Mozilla web browser, Creative Commons, Peer-to-Peer networks, Open Office, and Wikipedia are multi-faceted examples of open-source technology. The open-source realm relies on a philosophy of sorts – so that freedom and sharing of a specific (or any) knowledge will allow for that specific, underlying body of knowledge to be improved upon in infinite ways.

    Wikipedia, one famous example of interactive knowledge sharing, has a striking factual accuracy compared to that of Encyclopedia Britannica. Now the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP) strives to create a similar clearinghouse for water and sanitation technology through the recent unveiling of Akvopedia.

    Akvo = means water in Esperanto (theoretical universal language developed in the late 1800’s)


    Thomas Bjelkeman, founder of Akvo. Photo courtesy Akvo on flickr.

    Akvopedia features portals to discuss, share, update, and refine knowledge about:

    water
    sanitation, pumping and transportation, storage, treatment, and use of water
    sanitation
    toilets, collection, transportation, treatment, and use of products
    organizations
    NGOs, governmental organizations, research organizations, funding organizations, and commercial companies
    approaches
    project management, individual and collective, and supporting approaches

    The website has reviews and specifications for building water and sanitation infrastructure from:

    And the website provides a virtual setting for NGOs or others with water or sanitation project ideas to find funding. In short, Akvopedia provides access to open-source water and sanitation technology. This website will empower communities and promote localized development of water systems throughout the world by providing the knowledge, funding, and resources necessary.

    Thank you Akvopedia!

    With your support, Akvo can speed up the pace of water and sanitation development in some of the poorest parts of the world. Small Non-Governmental Organisations can act themselves. They can use new tools, share knowledge, specify projects, find funds and make things happen. They can be heroes. Akvo is creating an open resource, forging relationships with everyone around the world who shares this vision. We’d love to have you involved.

    www.akvo.org

    ‘Wash Your Hands’ and ‘Clean Your Plate’ – World Water Week Wrap-Up

    agriculture, drinking water, general, international, outreach, sanitation, sustainability, united nations, water availability

    Less worldwide food waste and better global sanitation were urgent needs cited during this year’s World Water Week from August 17th until August 23rd organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) in Sweden. Over 2,400 science, business, government, and non-profit leaders gathered to discuss the “Progress and Prospects on Water: For A Clean and Healthy World” (this year’s theme) with a special focus on the 2008 International Year of Sanitation as declared by the UN.

    This annual conference left much to be desired as discussions indicated  little progress in meeting one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — a reduction by half of the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015. There are 2.5 billion people across the world without sanitation, and according to a United Nations progress report released in July of 2007, 1.6 billion of these people will need access to improved sanitation by 2015 to be on target with the MDGs. That is almost one-quarter, about 24%, of the current world population. Or in general terms, a lot of people.

    John Sauer, in his recent article Finding the Toilet in Stockholm attributes the lack of available sanitation and drinking water, in part, to two major issues:

    • A general fear of the private sector and the “privatization” of public services.
    • The avoidance of the subject of sanitation and diseases such as diarrhea.


    Above PhotoThe Millennium Development Goals Report 2007

    Also this week, SIWI released a report indicating half of all food is lost (wasted, not ingested, not used) after it is produced. The report, Saving Water: From Field to Fork – Curbing Wastage in the Food Chain, estimated that 50 percent of all food is wasted and that less food waste will help preserve land and water resources. It takes water to grow food, right. Yep, and as James Leape stated at the opening session of World Water Week, “Irrigation-fed agriculture provides 45 percent of the world’s food supplies, and without it, we could not feed our planet’s population of six billion people.”

    So in a nutshell, that is a wrap-up of this year’s World Water Week in Stockholm. And you can be sure I did eat every bite of dinner on my plate tonight.


    Above Photo: SIWI.

    Public Drinking Water around the World

    drinking water, india, international, outreach, photos, sustainability, technology, water availability

    BYOB – bring your own bottle (for water), that is.

    ‘Fatherpur Sikri drinking water stand.’

    Photo Courtesy INDIA a County of a Billion People Blog

    ‘A row of drinking water vending machines in Pattaya, Thailand. A liter of water sold (in a customer’s own bottle) for 1 baht.’

    Above Photo: Vmenkov on Wikipeida

    ‘A drinking water post in the Rohtak district of India.’

    Above Photo: Water Supply & Sanitation Branch, Haryana

    ‘This is a fountain in the Pueblo of Santa Catarina four miles away from Panajachel, Guatemala.’

    Above Photo: hobotraveler.com blog

    ‘A Mayan woman with a child at a solar water treatment fountain in Guatemala.’

    Above Photo: Aqua Sun International

    ‘Interesting photo of water cooler on the street behind the Niger Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.’

    Above Photo: hobotraveler.com Blog

    ‘An Italian drinking fountain.’

    Above Photo: travelblog.org

    Widespread Drought: The Middle East in 2008

    agriculture, dam, drinking water, drought, economy, international, iraq, middle east, rivers, sustainability, water availability

    The following words come to mind as I think of the Middle East – oil, Iraq, war, Palestine, Israel, and desert. Many of the words on my list are mere impressions of media-induced messages, but one word on my list is somewhat realistic – desert. The Middle East is an arid region known the world-over for sand, camels, heat, and more sand. So when I tell you in a few moments that many countries in the Middle East are facing severe drought conditions this year, you may not be surprised.

    Yet contrary to my word list the Middle East isn’t entirely desert. Among the sand and heat, the region hosts fertile valleys and forests fed by one of two main rivers – the Tigris or Euphrates. This place was once so fruitful it was called “the fertile crescent,” “the cradle of civilization,” and “the birthplace of agriculture.” Today crops exported from the region include wheat, dates, olives, pistachios, raisins, eggplant, hazelnuts, and apricots. So when I tell you again that many countries in the Middle East are facing serious drought conditions this year, you may be dismayed.


    Above Photo: Yale University

    Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Cyprus, Iran and Iraq have each been dealing with decreased rainfall, reduced water storage, irrigation water shortages, and in some cases, declared drought. Drought in northeastern Syria over the past two years devastated wheat production in the region. Syria was forced to import wheat for the first time in fifteen years to compensate. Crops were also wiped out in Turkey after drought affected 35 out of 81 provinces. Iran is another nation importing extra wheat this season after a 20 percent decline in annual yield.

    Palestine and Israel have been in a “regional drought” for over half a decade. Palestinians in the West Bank, facing especially difficult circumstances, are without water for hours or days at a time this summer. Israel controls 90 percent of the water distribution system for the West Bank, but claims to be unable to provide additional water to those in the West Bank.

    Meanwhile, King Abdullah in Jordan has secured an Emergency Water Supply plan for next summer in case rains are less than predicted over winter. And, of course, the island of Cyprus is dealing with prolonged drought. Turkey is sending water by tankers to the Turkish half of the island, but the Greek half of the island refuses to accept water from Turkey. They are receiving water by tankers from Greece. A drought has been declared in Iraq after significantly less than the annual, average rainfall of six inches. Some say it is the worst drought in ten years. Both the Tigris and Euphrates flow through Iraq in less quantities from a lack of rainfall and dams constructed in Turkey and Syria. Barley and wheat yields, in this country, are expected to be reduced by half this year.

    Widespread drought in the Middle East means many individuals are enduring severe hardship with little watery relief. Often forced to relocate or consume muddy or polluted water unfit for human consumption, people in this region have to test the limit of life with minimal water. Simultaneous drought in regions such as the Middle East and Australia further influences already soaring grain prices on the world market. In fact, wheat prices have risen by 40 percent over the last several months alone.

    ‘A Different Kind of Water Torture’ on the Huffington Post

    architecture, drinking water, general, international, sanitation, water treatment

    “With the onset of hot, humid weather and early monsoon rains, situations of water-borne diseases such as viral hepatitis (A&E), gastroenteritis, typhoid and paratyphoid fever, cholera, dysentery, E-coli diarrhoea, giardiasis and intestinal worms, malaria, dengue fever, poliomyelitis and rotavirus diarrhoea in infants – the second major cause of childhood deaths – is likely to get worse if effective prevention and control measures are not adopted religiously.”

    The above was the headline from a recent edition of The News International, the second largest English language newspaper in Pakistan. This summer has shown a rampant rise of water-borne illness in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. And in Pakistan alone, each year over 1.2 people die of water-borne illnesses.

    In this same vein, John Sauer of Water Advocates in Washington DC has informed me of his recent post on the Huffington Post entitled “A Different Kind of Water Torture”. As the name might suggest, this post discusses the need to increase sanitation and water conveyance projects worldwide.