Monday, August 06, 2007

Water Log: Day 7 (Sunday 5th August)

The final day is here and my mind is already starting to think past water efficiency.

I know the day will be an easy one as I have a lot of bath water still collected to use for toilet flushing, which leaves me with a very generous daily allowance.

This surplus reflects in a variety of small luxuries, drop sized rewards for my hard work over the week. I use a quarter of a litre to make up a salt mouth-wash I use daily, another half litre to wash raspberries and vegetables, the same again for cooking pasta.

Relaxing and for the first time in ages, not worrying about water and planning use, I struggle to remember how bad I felt on Friday. Even on that bad day I always knew restrictions would end soon, it would have been much tougher otherwise.

Thinking over the week I wonder what lessons I will take with me back into 'water as usual' life. I'm sure I'll slip back into bad habits, but I do plan to try and make small changes.

The tap won't be left running and running and running as I clean my teeth. I will wash fruit and veg in a bowl. I'll be a bit more aware of just how long I'm luxuriating in the shower.

In one area I'm not budging, you've guessed it, the toilet goes back to being flushed as many times as needed. But maybe I will get a bubble bag for the cistern to reduce the amount of water it uses.

Urban, Islington life doesn't lend itself well to big revolutions in water efficiency and I have missed normal socialising desperately. But small changes make a great difference the water companies will tell you, and reflecting on some of my previous water-waster habits I agree with them.

Armed with my usage figures, I am going to do some number crunching to find out just where all that water went this week. Maybe the stats will throw up some interesting trends.

Having generally ignored water issues before; hose pipe bans, bah, that's ridiculous - turn off taps, state nag nag nagging and why don't they sort out the leaky pipes first anyway - I have a new found respect for just how important this simple two-element compound is to our bodies, homes and lives.

I remain a splashingly enthusiastic aqua fan but may just listen a little more to seriously to appeals to use water wisely.

Water used:
1.5 litre - drinking water
0.5 litre - cleaning teeth and retainers
0.5 litre - cooking pasta
0.5 litre - orange squash
0.25 litre - washing strawberries
0.25 litre - washing vegetables
0.25 litre - salt water mouthwash

Total: 3.75 litres

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Water Log: Day 6 (Saturday 4th August)

I am clean! I am clean! I am clean!

You get the point, it's shower day, I'm excited. As I eat breakfast I can't wait to get into the bathroom and turn on the taps. A short five minute non-power shower uses 35 litres of water, so I set my alarm clock and jump on in.

Our shower takes ages to find the right temperature, you have to move the taps with millimetre like precision to find that point between ice cold and scolding - but I don't care and get in anyway. It is wet, refreshing, invigorating and just damn good.

The five minutes is enough to wash the anti-gravity hair and have a good body scrub. As I turn the taps off I am so pleased to be clean. I plugged the bath beforehand, so also have about half a tub's worth of warm water collected, which I use to shave my legs and generally splash around like a child, beaming.

As I step out, it occurs to me that I now have 35 litres of what they call grey water sloshing around that can be used for all sorts of other stuff. If I hadn't shaved my legs, this would make excellent clothes-washing water - or for those with gardens prime plant-thirst quencher.

I don't have to wash any clothes thankfully, although if water week was going on longer this is exactly what I would do. So I get a bucket and instead use the water as an alternative to toilet-flushing. It works surprisingly well and there seems to be a never ending supply. I use around 16 litres over the course of the day and the bath is still about a quarter full.

Feeling rather smug about my sudden water riches, I splash out later in the evening and wash the salad I'm having for dinner. As I do, it occurs to me that I could have done this all along - wash the salad over a bowl and simply transfer this into your washing-up rations. Hey presto fertiliser poisoning avoided. Oh well, shortage makes you get creative, I'll know for next time.

As one last treat, I have a fantastically good cup of Earl Grey tea.

I know I'm on the home run now, with my water efficiency figures well in target and enough bath water to last for at least another day the hardest part is over. There may even be some water spare for more treats tomorrow.

On the subject of my increasingly reclusive lifestyle, the friend in Brighton who has taken to calling me smelly was saved from a visit this weekend. Just a few of the anticipated problems - how could I not flush in other people's houses, we would inevitably eat-out as the plan was to hit gay-pride, and how much water does a car use on a trip to Brighton anyway? It just wouldn't have been practical.

Apparently it takes 7 litres of water to make one pint of beer (one blogger says it can be as much as 300 pints indirect water), so I would also have been sober - entirely unprecedented! Now that's just no fun, is it...

Water used:
35 litres - 1 shower (yay)
8 litres - 1 toilet flush
2.25 litres - drinking water
0.5 litre - washing teeth and retainers
0.5 litre - 1 cup of tea
0.25 litres - washing salad

Total: 46.5 litres

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Water Log: Day 5 (Friday 3rd August)

It's a hot day outside and I have a feeling that this might make water efficiency tougher. All the advice says that you need more water as the temperature goes up and obviously there's the potential to smell alot more.

The day starts with washing up and I'm proud as 3 litres of water gets me through two loads - last night's takeaway dishes, which make the water smell of crispy duck and hoi sin sauce, and the usual breakfast plates and cups. The water lasts surprisingly well despite it's strange odour.

I head into Islington to do some shopping with my boyfriend and his sister and am pleased to be out of the house, although I don't feel great. I am actually dirty now, it's got past the stage of worrying what others think, it's more the annoying self knowledge that you're just not clean. And being around others who are emphasises that.

Having said that, I'm not stared at and I don't detect any judgemental looks from shop assistants or people walking by. I try on hats in Mambo and feel bad that I might be contaminating them, but do decide to buy a nice light blue trilby sunhat.

Boyfriend's sister asks, "When was the last time you washed your hair", when I tell her Sunday she is surprised and asks why my hair is not filthy. I am secretly delighted but tell her it is, she says it looks more like I've just sprayed a lot of hair spray on - which is probably quite accurate. When I take my hair out of a ponytail it has gravity defying forces and stays put where it is, needing encouragement to move back down to usual hanging position. It's very unpleasent.

As we pop in and out of shops I feel pretty rough. I have a headache, am tired and grumpy, as well as feeling too hot, sweaty and very thirsty. I'm unable to eat-out (can't track the water footprint) so we head home for lunch and I feel guilty again that this obssession with water is affecting other people's lives. There is just no room for compromise and socialising doesn't fit into the rations.

Back at home the thirst continues. I start to get a small cloudy dot moving across the sight line of my left eye - this happens sometimes when I get very dehydrated so it's not scary but mildly frustrating. I worry that my body is punishing me for cutting back my water intake so quickly and piling in a load of pesticides - it can't say 'wash before use' on fruit and veg for no reason.

After food and a much need extra 0.75 litres of rehydration I am feeling better and say good bye to the holiday makers as they jump in a cab to the airport. The flat is clean, the dishes done and the toilet flushed so my water needs for the day are taken care of.

I start to think about shower day tomorrow. So far I've used 69.25 litres of water and saved 30.75, add further savings tomorrow and I've made the 35 litre allowance I need for a full five minute shower. It will be such a treat to be clean.

Water used:
8 litres - 1 toilet flush
3 litres - 2 sets of washing up
2.25 litres - drinking water
0.5 litre washing
0.5 litre - teeth and retainer cleaning

Total: 14.25 litres

Friday, August 03, 2007

Water Log: Day 4 (Thursday 2nd August)

So the day comes when I am exposed in all my grubbiness to someone other than my boyfriend.

Luckily (for them) it is not my old work mates, all 'city girls' who are consistently perfectly groomed. Someone is not feeling well and we reschedule for next week. They chuckle when I tell them about water week saying it's definitely best we rearrange.

Thinking about the arrival of my boyfriend's sister, I'm concerned the flat is a mess. We usually have a cleaner on Wednesdays, but unable to control her water usage and feeling hypocritical about someone else sorting out my mess, I cancelled.

I start on a water free cleaning spree. Hoovering is water neutral, so I make the most of it sucking up hair and other mess from the bath and sink, they look cleaner already.

I can't spare any water to actually clean things so I do a lot of dry wiping with cloths (this strikes me as a false economy as I would still need to wash these if the experiment were going on longer).

Teeth-cleaning water has a multiple use as sink and toilet-lid cleaner, and already the place is looking more presentable. Perhaps I can pull this off after all.

After yesterday's accidental toilet flush, I have nothing in the rations to take extra action in this area. I leave the once daily tug to just before guest-sister's arrival. This is a mistake. For the first time the bathroom starts to smell like a portaloo, not nice!

Whatever economies can be made, reducing below a flush a day strikes me as completely unhygienic and not to be tried. Some air freshener works magic in getting rid of the smell and half a bottle of toilet duck goes down the offending lavatory (more doubts about chemicals compensating for water being a good thing).

Feeling rejuvenated after a whole litre's worth of full body wash, I contact water companies for quotes about efficient water use and wonder whether anyone else on the blogosphere has as much of an obsession with the blue stuff as me.

I start surfing... The Waller has some good practical every day water saving tips, the stuff you'll find in a lot of the company and council literature - get a bag for the toilet cistern which reduces water per flush and don't run taps while cleaning teeth.

Guardian unlimited have a blog area dedicated to water. Waterconserve has an interesting snippet about water being the next carbon, quite possible with the UN and Amnesty already making noise about future shortage and water as a human right.

Water-guide gives a general overview of industry issues, prices and flooding. Many of the blogs have a more general focus on climate issues - this environmental debate site was one of the best I found.

All surfed out, I pack up the computer and welcome guest sister with a hug. Boyfriend and sister have Chinese takeaway for dinner, unable to trace its water footprint I restrain! It strikes me this water restricting lifestyle is not a very social one.

On the plus side, no one has mentioned that I look like I've been dragged through a hedge backwards. I am grateful.

Water used:
8 litres - 1 toilet flush
1.5 litre - drinking water
1 litre - washing
0.75 litre - cleaning teeth and retainers
0.5 litre - cooking pasta

Total: 11.75 litres

Earl digs global warming, man...

Earl of 'My Name Is' fame jumped on the global warming band wagon, in last night's episode on Channel 4.

After spending too much time reading serious science and a litany of polarised views over the last two months, it was good to see climate change treated with a lighter touch. Christian Slater even guest stars building dung houses, "hey when it rains our houses melt, we just build them again". You can't argue with that.

Newsbusters summarises the episode well, although is suspicious of NBC's Gore-esque lefty motives. Check out the comments for the usual range of strong views.

A less right of centre overview is here - closer to the tone of the episode which I didn't think was preachy. You just can't seem to mention the two big Cs in any context these days without get strong reactions on all sides.

Some snippets from the show taken from Newsbusters blog, Darnell (as always) is inspired:

“Earl (Jason Lee) and his brother meet a commune of “hippie people” who convince them “we got to keep reducing greenhouse gases and reverse global warming.”

The two regulars enter the commune to give Earl a chance to make amends to a former stoner name Woody (played by Christian Slater). They (and the audience watching at home) end up getting lectured about the evils of climate change complete with charts.

As Earl explained “By the end, I was freaking out” and so was his brother Randy. “Hey, this is messed up, man. Does anyone else know about this? 'Cause we should tell the president,” Earl exclaimed.

Afterward, Earl became a complete convert and purchased a litany of loot – “Florescent bulbs that use less electricity. Reusable hemp bags for shopping. And look. Shampoo that's not tested on animals. I feel bad for those lab animals running around with dirty hair, but if it's better for the environment, that's the sacrifice they have to make.”

He then vows that he’s “going to fix” global warming and goes to his ex-wife Joy’s house to convert her. When she mentioned her husband had planned to pour used oil into the creek, Earl says: “You can't pour oil in the creek. If you do, the bar graph goes up, the pie chart gets bigger. The next thing you know, you got a big picture of the Earth with a sweaty forehead and a sad face.”

Only Joy’s new husband Darnell dared to question with this line: “I do care. I'm just not sure global warming is caused by man. I think it's a bit anthropocentric to think humans could have that much effect.”

Finally, Earl had a complete “meltdown” while the Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi” played in the background. (“Paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”) Earl returned to the commune where he got sage advice from Woody/Slater, "If everyone would take 5 minutes a day to do something they normally wouldn't do then we wouldn't have this problem"

Just as it seemed he might actually make sense, Woody/Slater threw out: “Oh, and, uh, you know what they said about eating an apple a day? Don't, 'cause they're loaded with pesticides.”

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Water Log: Day 3 (Wednesday 1st August)

Disaster strikes! The thing I have dreaded most since starting this low-water lifestyle happens, I accidentally flush the toilet!

8 litres of prime shower-reserved water washed down a drain in one foul flush. Frustrated is not the word. Obviously it's nice to have a clean loo, but it's better to have a clean self and I have been fantasising about that shower... a lot.

Its has been a day of water extravagance all round, as I also take the plunge and tackle the Everest-like pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen. 3 litres is the minimum needed to fill the sink to about 3 inches deep, so I make do with this small amount of water.

Usually I fill the sink to the top, plonk all the dishes in and leave the tap running to rinse away every last bubble. I've had stand offs with my boyfriend before about this, he swears neglecting to rinse dishes is unlikely to kill you.

I had to take him at his word today and try the new method. In one way 3 litres of water is more than I've seen for a good few days, it was lovely to have my hands submerged in the cool wet sink. In another this was such a minuscule amount compared to usual, that I wondered how clean the dishes could really be.

They were clean, not sparkling, but clean. The water was black by the end with floating debris in it, but still it seemed a shame to let it run away, so I have saved it for another washing up session in the morning.

On the social front, I've decided against meeting the girls in Islington tonight, mainly because I'm snowed under with work. But also, when you're feeling grubby and your hair looks like WD40 has been poured on it, it takes some of the fun out of socialising. There's something really rejuvenating about showering, it clears the mind and makes you ready for excitement. I'm missing that.

Lots of people I've spoken to today have been offering tips and anecdotes about water. My sister, "have you heard about dry-shampoo, Boots own brand is best", I have and will most likely be getting some now that my shower is in jeopardy.

My mum tells me lots of stories about Ireland in the 50s, people carrying water for washing day and having a bath once a week. We're only a generation away from a time when water access wasn't taken for granted in the way it is now. Perhaps in a generation we can change people's habits again, I've read somewhere that schools teach children a H-2-Oh song as part of water education these days. "People did manage to stay clean" my mum tells me, which brings home what a novice I am at this game.

When I look in the mirror I notice that my lips are slightly chapped. I feel thirsty, but then I often do. My daily water intake is prodigious. I often sit with a 2 litre water bottle in front of me all day, necking it like an addict. Add to that a couple of pints of squash in the evenings, as well as tea, juice and lots of fruit and veg, and I'm probably well in excess of the recommended daily intake. I think my body is missing all this water.

I am missing water...

Must work harder tomorrow to try and save back some litres for the shower. This could be tough as my boyfriend's sister is coming to stay and quite rightly, he is uncomfortable about restricted toilet flushing with guests around. I'm determined to get the water from somewhere though.

Water used:
16 litres - 2 toilet flushes
3 litres - washing up
1.5 litres - drinking water
0.75 litre - cleaning teeth and retainers
0.5 litre - washing
0.25 litre - cup of tea

Total: 22 litres

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Water Log: Day 2 (Tuesday 31st July 2007)

Day two in the water saving house... my aqua obsession continues.

Bodily hygiene has so far remained manageable. I'm not smelling - as far as I can tell anyway and nobody has said otherwise. My hair is taking on that two-days unwashed greasy look, but if I don't walk past mirrors too much it's ignorable.

Towards the end of of the day the skin on my back gets itchy and I am missing washing my hands regularly, which seem to pick up a grubby feeling throughout the day.

I have been closeted from too much reaction to cleanliness issues as I've been working at home all day. I am due to be out and about on Wednesday and Thursday evening, so more creative thinking may come into play then.

Despite six toilet trips today, I again managed to restrict myself to one flush making a massive difference to daily water total. The toilet is starting to look mucky, so I look at it less.

I decided to treat myself to some cooked dinner. The water conservation mentality has obviously settled in as almost without thinking I picked up the smallest sauce pan I own to cook rice in - the milk pan size that usually sits unloved in the back of the cupboard.

This meant I only needed 1/2 litre of water to cook with (about 1/2 pint) as opposed to usually 2 to 4 litres at a guess. Draining the rice was a bit of a luxury, but I mistimed it and all the water evaporated leaving the rice dry cooking for a few minutes - enough to need a rinse afterwards. Thoughts popped into my head about the environmentally friendly qualities of risotto rice, which absorbs all the water that's needed for cooking without any waste.

The 'chili con-Quorn' mince mix was already prepared in the freezer I just added kidney beans. I would usually rinse these but as they're preserved in water anyway this was a luxury that could be missed.

It's a struggle for me eating fruit and vegetables that haven't been washed. Yesterday's salad somehow seemed passable - tomatoes and lettuce are so clean looking anyway. Today's strawberries had a lot of grey dust stuck to them in places and I ended up throwing away one's that just didn't look edible. I also have a thing about pesticides - a bit of dirt won't hurt you as my mum always says, but what about all those chemicals?

The mountain of dirty dishes grows in the kitchen to be dealt with on another day. On the up side, having so far saved 19.25 litres the chances of taking a shower sometime in the next 5 days are good. I'm glad of small luxuries.

Water used:
8 litres - 1 toilet flush
1.5 litres - drinking water
0.75 litre - washing
0.5 litre - washing teeth and retainers
0.5 litre - cooking rice for dinner
0.25 litre - rinsing rice

Total: 11.5 litres

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Water Log: Day 1 (Monday 30th July 2007)

Well, judging by the numbers my first day of restricted water use has gone pretty well, I came in under quota at just over 11 litres. It would have gone even better if I hadn't unintentionally kept turning the tap on, very annoying. It is really surprising how much of a reflex action this is.

And what did I use my 11 odd litres of water for. It roughly slots into two areas, cleaning and sanitation.

Washing with half a litre of water was easy enough (for once I'm glad of my miniature sink) although it's only just sufficient for a quick splash clean. As this is the first day and I bathed last night, it's not too much of a hardship but I'm sure this will change soon.

Washing my teeth without a running tap was by far the most finicky of tasks. I'm currently wearing plastic teeth retainers to correct a collapsing tooth and they're really not easy to clean without the force of running water to remove sticky toothpaste. Hopefully they'll survive the week without getting too stained.

I managed to restrict myself to one toilet flush despite four trips during the day, as this is such a big extravagance there just isn't an alternative. It's not wholly pleasant, but certainly livable with and I haven't reached the stage of Glastonbury portaloo - yet.

I also ate cold food all day (cereal for breakfast, bread, cheese and ham cold cuts for dinner) so saved on any cooking water. The dishes are still sitting in the kitchen, but I figure it's best to wait for a large pile to develop to maximise the luxury of filling the sink (probably 8-10 litres at a guess).

My plan is to scrimp and save as much as I can in order to try and fit in one shower later in the week. That means saving at least 5 litres of water a day.

All the beakers and jugs have made me feel like I'm back at primary school on rainy day play times. I was a water addict then and used to love playing at the sinks moving water from one bottle to another.

In all honesty so far the impact has been minimal. My boyfriend commented that it will take a few days to kick in - when I need to wash clothes, or really fancy a hot cooked meal with fresh vegetables. I suppose anyone can survive a day or two of shortage without seeing major effect.

It is clear however that at these rations water can only be used for the most necessary of functions. The sink for example is already showing signs of grime gathering. I'd love to turn the tap on and get rid of this as I know it will stain as it builds up, but it's just not worth the aqua outlay.

So I guess it depends where you prioritise. A friend who I may visit at the weekend was horrified when I told her I might not have showered for a week. "Can't you just go thirsty?" she asked. Even if I could the 2 litres saved wouldn't add up to anything near enough for a good long scrub. Perhaps I won't be visiting after all!

Water used:
8 litres - 1 toilet flush
1.5 litres - drinking water
0.75 litre - washing teeth and retainers
0.5 litre - washing
0.25 litre - accidentally turned on tap to wash tooth brush
0.25 litre - accidentally turned on tap to wash spring onion

Total: 11.25 litres