March 20, 2007

The 40 Hour Drought - take part


When asked to join Sew Green I quite literally jumped at the chance. A blog of green-minded folk (from California to Vancouver, and recently more further a field) learning new green things together, who wouldn’t be tempted, who wouldn’t send back an immediate reply, “Yes, please! Count me in!”? So, here it is, all introductions aside in the first week, my first post, my first contribution to Sew Green, a blog that is sure to evolve into a green jungle of ideas, tips, experiences and a guide to handy, local and international resources. Cindy, Lisa S and Tracy have got it off to a flying start.

Reading Tracy’s post The grass is always greener earlier in the week on water consumption in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, in which she mentioned an alarming figure, “500 gallons of water a day (…1900 litres)”, tied in perfectly with what I wanted to write about today… water. Compare that figure with 208 litres residential daily water use per capita for Melbourne (2005-06).

Here in Victoria, and indeed the rest of Australia too, water is first and foremost on the minds of everyone. Water restrictions are enforced and new water saving ways have been embraced by the many (though not all, definitely not all). A whole host of new terms have been coined thanks to the growing ranks of plastic bucket people collecting the grey water from their showers and sinks to use on their garden beds. Who could have foreseen that scores of Melbournians would take to the bucket as their new shower companion with such gusto? That phone conversations would be cut short when it was time to divert the water from the washing machine... can’t have all that water simply going down the drain now, can we? Some shower with a foot firmly planted each inside a bucket whilst others prefer to place a bucket under the shower head as they wait for the hot water to kick in. Yes, the bucket brigade is growing in ranks especially as gardens dry up due to water restrictions enforced by drought. Down pipes have been altered so as to pour onto garden beds (that is, when it does actually drizzle) and, where possible, water tanks have been installed. So many inventive techniques have been adopted and reported about in the papers, so many ways to reuse your grey water (outdoor showers anyone? Yep, it’s already been done). So many ways to also reduce the amount of water being used as well. Water has become a precious commodity no one is wasting… showers are shorter, dripping taps are being repaired and water saving shower heads are being installed… bowls are placed in sinks to catch the excess from washing your hands to rinsing your tins for recycling.

For those not Melbourne based, we are, were I live, on stage three water restrictions which means (amongst other things) that even numbered houses can water their gardens on Saturday and Tuesday, whilst odd numbered houses can water on Sunday and Wednesday. Hand-held hoses fitted with a trigger nozzle, a watering can and a bucket can only be used between 6am-8am and 8pm-10pm two days a week, with no watering permitted on a Monday, Thursday or Friday. Other areas around the country have been on such restrictions for allot longer and south-east Queensland, as of the 10th of April, is about to step up to level five water restrictions.

All this talk of water brings me nicely to the nationwide community event, The 40 Hour Drought… which poses the question; can you manage with just 40 litres of water in a 40 hour period? Take part now and register here. It commences 7am, Wednesday the 21st of March through until 11pm, Thursday the 22nd of March (Hurry, there's just enough time). Louise and I will be taking part, how about you?
(Whilst this is ‘officially’ only for Australian residents in terms of registering to take part, I think it would be both a fun and worthwhile challenge for anyone, anywhere to try to limit there water consumption to an impressive 40 litres for a 40 hour period. 40 litres is 10.57 gallons.)

You’ll find handy water saving tips here (everything from using garden friendly detergents and cleaners low in salt, phosphorous and that are biodegradable to planting drought friendly plants).

I am off now to bucket my grey water around the foot of the white flowering hibiscus tree, and I'll keep you posted on how the 40 litre challenge goes.

19 comments:

louise said...

I'm off to print out the help sheet for the 40 hour drought... it will be interesting to see how we go, quite the challenge, even with you being such the champion water saver.

cruststation said...

What a wonderful awakening of people from all over the world to be 'greener'. I love the idea of putting a bucket under the tap waiting for the water to warm, I'll probably join the bucket brigade :) Thanks for the useful link, can't wait to hear how the challenge went.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Your post was such an eye opener for me and a reminder to count among my blessings abundant source of water. I live in the eastern U.S. in the Appalachan Mtns. and as I read, I thought of the lovely little creek that runs beside my home and the fresh water spring across the road that is a landmark in the area and a place where hundreds stop to look and take home some of the water.

Even with this abundance, I am going to try and practice a little water frugality myself. Cindy

cally said...

Wow, I had no idea things had reached that level over there! The 40 hour thing sounds great, somethimes people need that challenge so they can get motivated by being competitive with their neighbours (not you though, clearly you are tip top at this stuff).

Maybe I'm living in the wrong country. In Scotland people think I'm crazy because I use way less than 40 litres in a week, but in AU I'd be some sort of water guru! Or maybe just 'the girl with the dirty clothes and unwashed hair'.

I always forget that taps have hot water in them. Having no money for so many years I got used to washing in cold water, mostly. I use orris root powder to 'dry' wash my hair, mostly. I use variously sourced gray water to flush the toilet, mostly - occasional exceptions to that rule, no details required I'm sure!

I never wash stuff unless it's actually really dirty or smelly. I try and use just one pot and one bowl for food so I won't have lots of dishes to clean and I nearly always steam rather than boil food, and then make a cup of tea with the water that's left.

The garden is different though as we do have rain so I can gather 100's of gallons in water butts and old wheelie bins to save for summer. Obviously that's not an option for you guys so I really hope everyone can have some fun coming up with creative inventive ways to work through the challenge. I think it's a brilliant idea. Way to go Gracia.

shari said...

hi gracia.
i really enjoyed this post. we have recently started collecting the grey water from our bathroom sink in a bucket to use to flush our toilet. it is a small step i know but every little bit of water saved counts, right? xo shari

tracy said...

wonderful wonderful post gracia! i have family in aus and am always so impressed by the measures they take to conserve water. it boggles my mind why we here in california don't do the same. (consumption consumption consumtion) i am signing on for the 40 hr challenge. i have put a bucket in the shower! thanks for all the tips and inspiration!

ms. pea said...

you ozzies are kicking our arses. here in steamy, damp north carolina, i probably use 40 liters of water before getting out of bed in the morning! but being so challenged, it seems i could hardly avoid participation...

Chelee said...

Wow, What an amazing idea. I'm afraid I read this to late to participate officially but will try for a day this week.

alyssa said...

What great post! Thank you, Gracia.

m said...

The 40 hour challenge is a fantastic idea and I hope things like this will catch on world-wide, especially here in North America. I hope you report back to tell us how it went.

Camilla said...

Great post- since I live on my own my water bill has gone down dramatically - I have a water meter fitted so I only pay for what I actually use, and since my Arizonan flatmate moved out last year i'm about £150 a year better off. I'm not sure him being Arizonan had much to do with it, but i've lived in the UK all my life and well remember various droughts where we were encouraged to share baths/showers and use grey water for the garden.

At the moment i'm starting up an allotment for growing my veg on and am taking all the water saving advice I can get as the summer is predicted to be long and very hot. The main thing that is really important for plants in making sure they have loads of compost in the soil, and mulching round the bottom of the plants- really helps cut down on water lost by evaporation. Oh and like you say- only water in early morning/evening unless you see something about to wilt away!
I think i'm going to love this blog!
(http://muddywithmilla.blogspot.com is my allotment blog)

Nichola said...

Ack! I missed the sign up. Maybe i'll try for a day or two this week instead.

cindy said...

fantastic, gracia.
can you believe we have water restrictions here on the wet, west coast? last summer they ran out of water in a beach resort called tofino. it's a temperate rain forest. it's just not right.

Gwyn said...

I live in level 5 territory and its been really interesting because on the radio today all sorts of people are phoning upset that they can't wash off their surfboards - pleeeeaaaaase!

Lumi said...

I too say great post and thank you.

Can you believe in Ireland water costs nothing? This is such a old fashioned country... too bad I missed the challenge.

Peg said...

How'd it go, how'd it go? Thanks for the inspiration.

amisha said...

great post, gracia! we are in a bit of a drought here in florida and i have been thinking about how to deal with my garden... the 40 liter challenge is a great goal and i will definitely be using some of the greywater suggestions. thank you!

tracy said...

have to come back to say we failed miserably at the challenge! it sound like (and is) so much water. and then we realized we use so much more than that. really was an eyeopener and has thinking much more carefully about how we "turn on the tap"... thank you!! will be implementing more of the tips you linked to.

gracia said...

Hello all,

A post on just how Louise and went on this 40 litre s in 40 hours water challenge is, if you'll excuse the pun, in the pipeline. I promise to post it sooner rather than later, and with a few green tips for those on a shoestring budget as well.

Thanks so much for all the interest, feedback and general, wonderful curiosity and comments. I'm well and truly overwhelmed.

take care, g