Tuesday, February 23, 2021

T.T.: Water Talk

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.

Clean clothes are THE status symbol of Water Wealth.

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.

Happy Tuesday.


Anonymous said...

There is a commercial on TV right now for a popular dishwasher detergent (can't remember which one). And they say that you can run your dishwasher every night, even though it's not full, for less water than handwashing dishes. I guess if you are one of those folks that keep the rinse water running or don't put the stopper in your sink, perhaps this would be true.

Kristin @ Going Country said...

Linda: You know, now that you mention that, I do recall seeing videos on YouTube of women doing dishes (I was watching cleaning motivation videos for awhile--it was oddly fascinating) and noting that those women all seem to do dishes by individually squirting each dish with soap, or using one of those soap-dispensing wand sponge things and leaving the water running to rinse. They never fill their sinks with soapy water. I thought that was weird. And I can see how that would use way more water. So yes, I guess I do do dishes differently thank many people.

Anonymous said...

After I did some water use trials of my own I too concluded the hand washing usage claim couldn't possibly be based on a plugged sinkful of rinse water. If you find it gets too soapy to rinse well, you are using way too much soap! (Addressing my SIL's objection to that method.)

Kate said...

Years ago my husband and I lived out in the woods, without water. We used to take clean milk jugs into the very small nearby town and fill them at the cemetery. Wow. I guess that does sound strange now that I see it in print. But the cemetery had running water and the caretaker told us to go ahead, so we did.
Then in the summer we just drove up to the house and unloaded the jugs. But in the winter, we had to park out at the road and load the jugs in a sled and haul them a quarter mile to the house. So I was as saving of water as possible, and I did dishes with dish pans - one for washing and one for rinsing. I'd guess most of the time I used about two gallons, maybe a little less.
The worst thing about not having water was having to go the laundromat!

Kristin @ Going Country said...

Anonymous: It never occurred to me to do dishes WITHOUT filling a sink, but people have told me they find the idea of washing dishes in a sinkful of water gross, because they're washing them in "dirty water." To each her own, I guess.

Kate: I used to fill milk jugs with water at my SIL's house in "town" for our drinking water before we put in a new water system at our old house that made the water potable. I absolutely detested hauling the water (she lived in an upstairs apartment, and as you know, water is heavy), and I can't imagine having to do that for ALL the water. And then hauling it in a sled. Makes you conserve water, though, for sure. :-)

JP2GiannaT said...

I might need to know it...we're on a well hooked to local electricity, so if we ever get an extended blackout, we're toast.

flask said...

hey, hi.

i didn't die.

i'm just really slow catching up. i'm still following the story.

thank you for this post. we recently had a failure in our water system and it's interesting to see these numbers.

all best to you and the gang.

Kristin @ Going Country said...

Hi Flask! I have wondered off and on how you were doing. Thanks for commenting.