For many people in our neighboring state of Texas, last week was Not A Good Week. No heat, no electricity, no water.
No good. If that was you, I'm sorry, and I hope things are better now.
Thankfully, we had a very short power outage, and no other inconveniences to speak of.
Well, we did have a very slight inconvenience later in the week, when we got a call from the neighbor who, with her husband, manages the "municipal" water in our ghost-village. Our water system serves all of three households and the post office, and so it's very much a local affair when anything goes wrong.
A pipe to the communal well froze, which required a backhoe to get at the water lines, so it was not a quick fix. Our neighbor called us to let us know that the well tank wasn't filling, and there wasn't a lot of water in it, so until they could fix it, we needed to conserve water.
Got it. A. announced to the household at large that all boys must pee outside until otherwise notified.
The boys are more than happy to do this (there's even a tree over by the barn that they call "the pee tree," for obvious reasons), but toilets are not actually the biggest users of water.
I spent some time figuring out how much the various water-using activities actually use in gallons, and I am now going to share that with you. Just in case you, too, find yourself in the position of needing to conserve water for whatever reason.
So! The biggest water-hog of all is a full bathtub. That's about 30 gallons.
A ten-minute shower uses about 20 gallons, depending on the water flow. So any sort of bathing is an easy thing to put on pause if you're trying not to use too much water.
The other big water-user, unsurprisingly, is a washing machine. The average load in a washing machine uses 20 gallons of water.
So, basically, forget about cleanliness for awhile if you don't have a lot of water to spare.
Except for cleaning your dishes! Surprisingly--to me, anyway--a dishwasher only uses a little over 3 gallons of water for an average cycle. The night we were conserving water, I didn't even have a full dishwasher (a very unusual occurrence for us), and so I just did most of the dishes by hand.
I had the soapy water in my big stockpot, since I needed to wash it anyway. I rinsed the dishes into that, too, so I could see how much water I used.
It turned out to be just a bit over a gallon.
This surprised me, because I have seen more than once the assertion that washing dishes in a dishwasher actually uses less water than handwashing. I was always skeptical of that claim, and now I really am. Granted, I didn't wash a full dishwasher's worth of dishes, but even if I had done twice as many dishes, I still would have used only about 2 gallons of water.
Maybe I wash dishes differently than most people? I dunno.
Lastly, those toilets. Unless you have a really, really old toilet--like, from the 1970s or earlier--your toilet probably only uses about a gallon and a half of water for each flush. Reasonable.
So here are my takeaways from this analysis of water use:
1) You can flush a lot of toilets with the water used for one shower.
2) Keeping a clean kitchen is possible with very little water.
3) If you're out of water for awhile, give up on clean clothes and clean bodies.
4) When you are once again able to use water freely, it will feel very luxurious. And maybe make you feel a little guilty, now that you know just how much water goes into that load of laundry.
I hope you never need to know all this, because it's kind of a bummer to be anxiously watching where every gallon of water goes, but it's good information to know nonetheless.