#4Liters: Could you live on 16 cups of water a day?

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Taking the #4Liters Challenge

Take the #4Liters Challenge

My friend Jeff over at Sustainablog recently took the #4Liters Challenge, and he asked me to do the same. For 24 hours, I limited my water for cooking, cleaning, drinking, and bathing to four liters, about 16 cups. It was tough!

Related: Water Sustainability: How do we price water?, How to Wash Dishes Using the Smallest Possible Amount of Water

In the developing world, #4Liters isn’t a challenge. That’s just daily life. The group DigDeep started The Four Liter Challenge to raise awareness about water scarcity and raise money for people who live with limited access to clean water. Below is my experience, and I hope that you’ll be inspired to take the #4Liters Challenge, too!

DigDeep describes itself as “not a water charity.” Instead, they say that they’re fighting injustice. Water is a basic human right, and they want to help people gain access to that right. One hundred percent of donations to DigDeep go to fund water projects.

Taking the #4Liters Challenge

My #4Liters

That measuring cup pictured above ruled my life yesterday. I measured every drop of water for cooking, cleaning, and drinking.

They encourage you to have fun with this challenge, so I tried to stick to my average day as much as possible. I did the challenge alone, so my husband and my 19-month-old weren’t participating. I couldn’t imagine limiting my son to four liters a day. My heart goes out to women who don’t have the choice to opt their children out.

To keep myself honest, I kept a running list of water consumption on my phone and tweeted my progress throughout the day using the hashtag #4Liters. I tried to have some humor about the whole thing, but you guys. It was hard. By the end of the day I was fantasizing about washing my hands.

Here are a few of my tweets from yesterday. I won’t burden you with every single one.

I sort of followed Jeff’s lead and counted coffee as water. I also counted wine as water, since it felt like cheating to have a glass (OK, two or three glasses) and not count it as something.

It would be hard to say how many times I reached for the tap yesterday and remembered that it was off limits. To keep my hands “clean” through baby diaper changes without using precious water to wash, I used hand sanitizer. By the end of the day I felt super, super gross but had also figured out a way to wash my hands using 1/4-1/2 cup of water from my trusty measuring cup.#4Liters Lessons and What You Can Do

I ended up using 15 3/4 cups, just shy of the 16 cup limit. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 1/4 cup water to brush teeth
  • 1/2 cup water to drink
  • 1 cup coffee
  • 1/2 cup to brush teeth
  • 1.5 cups coffee
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup coffee
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups for pasta
  • 1/4 cup to wash hands
  • 3/4 cup to drink
  • 3/4 cup wine (2 glasses)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup wine (1 small glass)
  • 1 cup water before bed
  • 1/2 cup to wash hands
  • 1/4 cup to brush teeth

I’m lucky that today I can once again go back to using the running water that luxuriously flows right out of the tap. So many people aren’t that lucky. The #4Liters Challenge was sort of an experiment for me, and since starting it I can’t stop thinking about people who live this way every single day.

The hardest part for me to reconcile was using water for my son, Darrol Henry. I can’t imagine how it must feel to limit your child’s water use. Darrol loves to wash his hands and play in water. He looks forward to bath time at the end of the day. Every time I filled his water bottle, my heart broke for mothers who have to carefully measure their children’s water as closely as I monitored my own water use yesterday.

Related: Donate Your Birthday for Clean Drinking Water

You’re supposed to challenge four friends to take the #4Liters Challenge, but I’m not super big on calling individual folks out. Instead, I challenge any of you who want to participate. If my experience made you curious, I hope that you’ll head over to the 4 Liters website and make a donation or take the challenge.

If you want to get involved, you can take the challenge and challenge friends. You can take the challenge and not challenge friends. Or, you can just make a donation to DigDeep. No matter how you choose to get involved, you’re supporting the human right to clean water access.

Have you taken the #4Liters Challenge? What was your 24 hours like? I found myself grateful for things that I didn’t anticipate. Hand sanitizer, like I mentioned, was incredibly helpful. I was also glad for any food that I could prepare without using my precious supply of water. If you took the challenge, I’d love to hear about the unexpected things that made your day a bit easier.

Image Credits: Water Tap via Shutterstock, Measuring Cup by Becky Striepe

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