Guess how many of gallons of water you use each day.
10? 20? 30?
Nope, about 100 gallons a day, according to the EPA.
Writing a blog about water on an entitlement website may seem like an odd choice. What does water use have to do with entitlement? Over the years my blogs have been focusing on items that make more sense when you talk about what we tend to get entitled about: consumerism, food waste, too many of everything, etc., and how these things wreck our character and feed our infantilism. So why look at water usage?
Here is why: because we take water for granted and don’t even know we do. We just always expect it to be on hand. Its abundance, its cleanliness, its convenience. Truth is, when it comes to water, we have it REALLY good in the United States compared to most of the world.
Take a glance of how precious water is from a global perspective:
In America, regardless of where you live or how dry it has been (California is experiencing a severe drought right now, contributing to the worst fire season in decades), you can still conveniently walk to your sink, move a lever an inch, and have clean, drinkable water delivered to exactly where you are standing. We are so fortunate! For most of the world, if you want water (clean or not), you need to hike to get it - miles perhaps!
According to Data360, in 2014 the average American citizen used 150 gallons of water a day, or 575 liters. Compare that to a few gallons a day that some third-world people use, that’s a crazy high amount!
Reading these statistics, juxtapositioned with the continual stories I read about rural Indian villagers who have to walk miles to gather their water, really troubled me. Through my work at Indian Gospel League, I have come to understand in a deeper way just how valuable a simple water well installed in a village can be. It impacts their life greatly, especially for the women who can spend up to 30% of their daily energy just collecting water (for more on that, read here).
So how can I wrap this conviction into an entitlement experiment for my family? They already know we use a lot of water, and they know the plight of others who don’t have it in other countries. But do they care? To be honest, not really. Because we don’t actually feel the pain of what they experience. It’s just one of those gloomy, emotionally distant things that we read a story about, get sad for a second, then go on with our happy, entitled life.
So the experiment this month is to use the same amount of water as used in the poorest of third world countries. And hiking to get it before it can be used. But I’m not doing this experiment so I can teach my kids to use less water – although I hope that is a side benefit. What I want my kids to learn is to have compassion for the rest of the world that doesn’t have water in a way that results in action – in their prayer life as well as their pocketbook. In addition to that, to also learn to be grateful for the water they have. One less thing they feel entitled to and take for granted. To be mindful enough to pray on a regular basis for those in 3rd world countries whose bodies are a fractured, painful wreck simply because they don’t have clean water, or any water at all.
And as a bonus, everytime we haul water, we will put money in our “water well collection jar”, which at the end of the month we will send to India Gospel League toward their water well program.
Who knows if this will change anything in our entitled view toward water – but even if it is a drop in the bucket towards that, it will be worth it.
We set up some backpacks that had in them one to two gallons of water, and made a water tally chart on the wall next to the front door. We decided the walking distance for carrying the water is ¼ mile for Joel, Morgan and myself, and 1/5 mile for Meagan and Emmy (and Emmy can use her wagon). It took a day or two for the kids to understand what was really happening. Many of our first walks revolved around discussing how much it sucks to haul water. But it was our sore backs and tired feet that made understand a bit better the plight of those who have to do this everyday of their life.
After a few days, the complaining subsided and we started using that time to pray instead. During this week, we also discovered how woefully unprepared we were for guessing how much water we use. A shower is 2-3 gallons per minute, and some of us take LOOONG showers. A typical bath or load of laundry is 40 gallons. That means if I want to do a load of laundry, then I have to carry one gallon of water 10 miles. OUCH! I think we are going to learn pretty quickly the art of quick showers and washing our clothes by hand.
Most of us are doing a pretty good job keeping up with not using more water than what we haul. One days the girls and I walked 3 miles, with Morgan and I carrying two gallons at a time, and that added up to some good water reserves! One of the more nice surprises out of this experiment is the one-on-one connection we are having with our kids during this time. While we walk, the kids are eager to pray for rural villagers in India. I have even caught them later, in the privacy of their room, praying out loud for people who don’t have water. We also decided this week, after much debate, that it would be OK to count hauling water on your bike if it was only one gallon of water at a time and you rode a ½ mile instead of only a ¼ mile.
On a gross note, one of the ways we are reserving water is to not flush the toilets until we HAVE to (as the saying goes....if it’s brown, flush it down. If it’s yellow, let it mellow!)
The big thing this week was washing our clothes by hand. Our goal was the family to wash a weeks worth of laundry with 25 gallons of water instead of 300. So in the backyard, we created a bucket assembly line of sorts (soapy water bucket, rinse water bucket, and final rinse water bucket), pulled our washboard off the wall (which we have as a wall hanging, ironically), and started washing. The kids did a pretty good job, but boy are clothes heavy when soaking wet! It was a long process, but we were able to do it in an hour. Our neighbor even let us borrow her clothes line (thanks Beth) !
As we were eating dinner one night, and discussing how the experiment is going, we came to learn that our middle child, Meagan, had not showered in 23 days. What?!?! We asked why, and we were told she didn’t want to waste the water, not even for an “airplane bath.” After much chiding, but laughing at the same time, we were able to convince her to take a four gallon shower. Outside that incident though, everyone is still being really good about walking their water and sticking to minimal usage.
We are in the home stretch, with only a few days left! I am noticing we are all wearing our clothes 3, 4, even 5 times so we don’t have to wash them. It’s interesting how routine it is becoming to walk water every day (or every other day). With that said, I think we are all longing for October 1st to come around so we can all take longer showers!
When the month was over, our family had walked 813 gallons of water and used 810 gallons. To put it in perspective, if we normally use the 150 gallons a day as the statistics say we do, that would equate to 4,500 gallons, which means we used only about a fifth our our normal water usage. Let's hope that translates on our water bill!
I asked the family to describe in one word what they thought about this latest experiment. They threw out words like “fun”, “interesting” and “hard.” Morgan told me that although she didn’t really like having to haul water, she appreciated that we did it. I know for me, everytime I use a large quantity of water I think about (and pray for) the women who work so hard across the world to get what little water they have.
Also, as I mentioned above, we had a jar where we could drop in our coins and dollar bills after we walked our water. By the end of the month, the jar had $102 in it to send towards a water well in India. Even though $102 falls far short of the $1,250 it costs for an entire water well, at least it is a start. In fact, if you would like to contribute towards a water well yourself, you can do that here.