Personal Changes that Help Solve Water Shortages, Save Money, and Provide for Local Food

The Big Question I wanted to answer was:
What is the real minimum amount of daily water needed to lead a normal life?

Taking the Challenge:

In 2006, my husband and I began the experiment to answer this serious question. It was important not to spend thousands of dollars buying expensive technology on this experiment because we wanted anyone to be able to do it, not just the wealthy. We did buy one low-flow shower head on a hose (about $20), and had two low-flow toilets installed for free by a contractor who was happy to get the water credits. We also pulled out of recycling some plastic coffee containers for holding used water.

The experiment had begun, and the results were exciting! Water usage varies by month, but as an example, in the month of December, 2006, our water usage was 270 gallons, while for the same month in 2005, when we were still living the wasteful water lifestyle, our water usage was 2,000 gallons! About 7 times less water! That frees up a lot of water, some to not waste on expensive water and waste systems, and some to use for local food.

The impetus for creating a simple website was created by the reactions people were having to the write-up in the National Geographic’s special edition on water, in April, 2010. In the last article, called The Last Drop by Elizabeth Royte, I was the lead quote because of my experiment with water, finding a reasonable answer to how much water was really needed if people truly cut back to essentials using conservation methods. With over six million copies worldwide, we found that people were asking HOW this was possible. There was a craving to understand the how-to details which were not covered in the short article.


Living in the high desert of northern New Mexico, Louise Pape bathes three times a week, military style: wet body, turn off water, soap up, rinse, get out. She reuses her drinking cup for days without washing it, and she saves her dishwater for plants and unheated shower water to flush the toilet. While most Americans use around a hundred gallons of water a day, Pape uses just about ten."I conserve water because I feel the planet is dying, and I don't want to be part of the problem," she says.

National Geographic, Water: A Special Issue, April, 2010