The 4 Liters Challenge


Starting Feb 1st, I’m taking the 4 Liters challenge for not just 24 hours, but a whole damn week. (For a myriad of personal and political reasons.)

You thought the ice bucket challenge was tough? Try going a whole day using only 4 liters (approx. 1 gallon) of water for everything from brushing your teeth to washing your dishes. For the billion(s) of people around the world who live in water poverty, this is every day life.

The average USian uses 500 liters of water daily, which IMO, is absolute unjustifiable horseshit. We need massive change on a cultural and infrasturctural level, but that probably isn’t going to happen voluntarily anytime soon… so for now, there’s this.

For the week I’m doing the challenge, I hope to raise at least $100 via my profile on their website here, much (reportedly 100%) will be going to water projects worldwide (some in developing nations, some right in my own backyard here in the US— yes, not everyone in the US has access to enough clean drinking water, especially those on reservations I hear).

I’ll be blogging about it, talking about the changes I’ve made in my personal habits over the past year that may or may not have made this easier for me to do than the “average american”, and of course, rehashing all the old advice on how to stop taking your water usage for granted and how to stop wasting it.

I will only have a couple of exceptions to the gallon rule: the occasional Starbucks coffee (I will bring my own water bottle to any restaurant I may have to go to for social reasons, and will avoid ordering water-intensive foods like rice and pasta), beer (weak beer has historically been used as a way to get clean drinking water), and toilet flushing (I have mild-moderate IBS and also live with someone else who isn’t going to be taking the challenge with me).

This is going to be made more complicated by my zero waste habits; most challengers, it seems, survived the ordeal thanks to lots of disposable items like using baby wipes instead of showering, hand sanitizer instead of hand washing, and likely lots of napkins or even paper plates to alleviate the pain of doing dishes with only a few cups of water. (I doubt that any of them even thought to attempt to do laundry, which I will probably need to do by then.) Now, to me, that seems like cheating–especially since people living in such extreme water poverty definitely do NOT have the money to pay for freakin’ baby wipes–but either way, I will do without any disposables or extra items that I do not already use in my day to day because I’m not going to compromise on my zero waste habits.

What do I wish to accomplish by doing this? Well, raising that $100 would be really nice… but also, I want to help build a broader, richer picture of what water use really means. I know some aspects of cutting down (honestly, I already use probably around a 1/10th of that “average American” figure cited above at the most) will be easy, and other will be ridiculously hard. Hopefully in doing this, and documenting it, I can share with other people how easy it is to stop taking your (potable!) water use for granted and to start conserving. But I also want to try and illuminate, by being a white US citizen playing at water poverty for a week, how stressful and difficult it is to accomplish some of the most basic facts of life with poor access to water. If you need a white face to feel sympathy for someone’s plight, then here it is– you’ve got no excuse now.

If any of you would be interested in doing the challenge with me, even just for the recommended 24 hours, then let me know! It’ll be nice to have a buddy to keep me company.