Our Water Use: The 5 Gallon Challenge

big sure waterfall

The sound of water splashing against the rocks as it falls into a pool below is a beautiful thing. Between our trips abroad & here on the central coast, our summer has been pretty full of beautiful (yet fairly small) falls. The power & beauty is striking. However, standing in front of a waterfall is a sharp contrast & reminder of the harsh drought California still faces. (Read this article on the current state of California’s water usage).

I talked about water conservation earlier in my post: Big, Blue & Beautiful: H2O.  As the conversation continues to grow, more & more Californians (and people all over the world) are becoming aware of the urgent need to preserve our precious water resources. Check out this beautiful & inspirational video that was made in response to the ALS challenge: The Five Gallon Challenge.

Our Five Gallon Challenge

The average American uses 75-100 gallons of water per day. So for a household of two (like us) that would be around 150-200 gallons per day. (Read more stats & facts at EPA.gov/watersense). So today, me & the hubby completed this challenge in response to the ALS Ice Bucket challenge (thanks to my eldest nephew for the nomination!), The Five Gallon Challenge, & the growing water crisis in California.

First we measured out 5 gallons of water…

…and then we taped the faucets off, limited our number of toilet flushes, and went about the day as usual.

Okay, our day was a little different than usual. We couldn’t shower (as a ten minute shower would be at least 20 gallons of water each), so we used washcloths to get clean. Dish washing took a little longer taking care to conserve every precious drop. Watching the water level go down in our little supply was an eye opening experience. Even a midst drought, we are so very blessed to not feel an immediate threat of going without water in our daily lives.

I couldn’t brew new tea for my kombucha because I didn’t want to risk running out of water before the day was over. Having to stop & think before every water use was a different feeling. It was hard to be patient & weigh priorities before consuming water. It was also empowering.

A few work colleagues & I started pairing up when we needed the toilet. I don’t mean we went in together, but everyone would do their thing in turn & the last person flushes. It sounds kind of gross in terms of hygiene & definitely outside of our normal privacy comfort zone. However, it turns out to be a pretty effective strategy with each non-flush saving between 1-7 gallons depending on the toilet. TMI?

So, here are the numbers…

4.5 gallons of water: total water used by our household today. This was all our water usage (excluding toilet flushing), which included personal hygiene, dish washing, drinking, cooking, cleaning & watering plants (the outdoor plant didn’t get watered).

10 gallons of water: This is our estimated water usage for toilet flushing. We used 7 gallons of water combined for all our flushes while at work (both our employers use low-flow toilets). Since we were not sure the gallons per flush of our home toilet, we kept our home usage to just TWO flushes – pretty good, right? Turns out it is hard to break the habit of always flushing. Have you ever pre-flushed in a public restroom to clear the bowl? I’m guilty. And that doubles your water consumption! Okay, moving on…

The cool thing about this challenge is we were mindful in every choice we made about our water usage today. I feel so much gratitude to our water & a deepened desire to contribute to making this world better for everyone. We will start by donating to three of our favorite organizations that strive to make a difference in people’s lives.

I now challenge you to complete The Five Gallon Challenge to support water conservation efforts & be part of the change our planet needs!

 Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead