It was 10 years when I awoke from an accidental nap in the middle of my climate change lecture. As I readjusted to my surroundings, I discovered that my lecturer was having a rant about the global water situation. I sat upright, hooked by his impassioned talk. It was at the moment when he lamented about how we in the UK flush millions of litres of drinkable water daily down our toilets, even when we live in a predominantly water stressed country, that I knew I had to spread the message of water saving.
Since then I have had the pleasure of nagging, I mean encouraging, my friends and family to use water wisely. It is to my delight when I find myself chatting with a friend and they share that they think about me when they are brushing their teeth. No, thankfully, I do not remind them of plaque or tooth decay, but rather the task of turning the tap off whilst they clean their teeth. Job done, some might say. But I also need to do my part…
Well, I can happily say I am pretty squeaky clean when it comes to my water use. I turn the tap off when I brush my teeth, when I am soaping up dishes in the sink, and even when I am lathering up in the shower. I also wait until I can do a full load of laundry or a dishwasher load, and my average shower is 4-6 minutes. Using the flow rate and appliances in my previous household I have calculated this to be 103 litres a day (50 litres shower, 10 litres for laundry averaged out per day, 20 litres for dishwashing, 21 litres toilet, 2 litres drinking) Not too shabby!
A year ago my circumstances changed. Wanting to live a mobile, off-grid life, surrounded by ducks, Alex and I moved onto Pollyanna, our 50ft narrow boat. We discovered a newfound awareness of all the resources we use; from water, gas, and electricity, to the number of bins we fill up. As a result, we are now more water savvy and our showers are an average of 3 minutes. With a flow rate of 7 litres a minute that is an impressive 30 litres per shower! No wonder the two of us are able to make our 400 litre tank of water last 2 weeks!
Now boat life is hard work but tremendously rewarding. Well, that is until you can no longer start your engine and you spend months with an immobile boat in a battle with engineers to finish repairs. Don’t worry, I’ll spare you the details!
Earlier this summer, there we were broken down with no way to fill our empty water tank. What did we do? Well, have you ever had the luxurious experience of showering in mountain spring bottled water? Unfortunately, I have! Due to our hot water being dependent on being able to run the engine, in order to have a hot shower we went back to basics and had to boil a pan of water on the stove. This whole process, and the fact we would literally have to prepare a set amount of water per wash, meant we got down to…. 3.5 litres of water per wash! Definitely a personal best for me!
I hate to imagine the look of horror if I shared this information with one of the adolescents Cath and I have had the pleasure of teaching. These water loving adolescents typically spend 30+ minutes showering. My three litre shower would be miniscule compared to their average 210 litres for 30 minutes.
Now I would love to end there and say, look how water efficient I was. But I would be neglecting a key factor… the water footprint of bottled water. For every one litre of bottled water there is a water footprint of 4 litres (3 litres to make the bottle plus the litre of water inside). That means my three litre shower would in fact be 14 litres. Hhhmm. Not so great but still impressive.
The good news, our boat has been fixed! Now, to make up for all that water we saved with a GIGANTIC bath… well, in fact, end to end, our bath is more the length of two of the ubiquitous mallards that you see all the time on the canal. They come in at about 20″ long, whilst our bath is 42 inches or 3.5 feet long!