Given the serious water situation in California, strong measures are called for. The usual, and admittedly useful, measures, like switching off sprinklers, won’t be sufficient.
Luckily, many of us from India have lived and survived through scarce water situations—try Delhi any summer! So, I thought I’d put together some ideas to see if they’d strike a chord. My recent trip to India also helped. Here, I share my wisdom:
1. Bathing is Overrated
Ask the French—they know! Heck, as kids, we knew too. There was value in body odor—especially during exam time!
Unfortunately, somewhere, something—the archaic education system, over-zealous, but misguided, parents, the discovery of lice in one’s hair or boils behind the ears—changed all that!
Well, tough times or places call for tough measures. I remember watching a movie about people in India’s Thar Desert. They used to bathe once every week, so little was the water. If they could manage it in that weather, we, who are in California, and but for California weather, would have moved en masse to Texas, could easily and wholeheartedly adopt that. If we could all resolve to bathe every alternate day, that would bring down our bath-water consumption by 50% for most of us! And no one would notice. After all, none of my friends have mentioned anything to me? So that proves it, right? On second thoughts, don’t answer that.
Moreover, when would all our deodorant supplies come in handy? And if needed, we could use stronger stuff—like baking soda.
2. Hit the Bucket
If and when you must bathe, use a bucket of water with a mug. Most people—well ,those from my generation or earlier—would relate to this. There is nothing more efficient than bathing with a bucket of water. Even if you used two buckets, it would still be more efficient than standing under the shower singing “Thande thande paani se” (cold showers) or some such Bollywood hit.
Using a bucket can also be an occasion for great familial bonding. Whenever I visit my parents, sooner than later, my Dad turns on the little geyser which slowly starts filling up a bucket with hot water. Every two minutes, he reminds me to make sure the bucket does not overflow. When the bucket has filled up, Mom starts reminding me every three minutes to stop working and to go take a bath before the water gets cold. Each such interchange is accompanied by good-natured ribbing, along with exchange of views on such important topics such as what we should cook for dinner, and such. If I am at my father-in-law’s place, he not only reminds me of the heating geyser but also threatens to charge me or my company should the geyser break down!
Can you imagine a regular hot-water shower ever competing with that? That’s right. So, go buy a good-sized bucket from Home Depot—and start bonding! And if there’s any water left over, it can be put to good use—especially if you have a pet!
3. Stop Doing Laundry Every Week!
Simply put, we wash too many clothes too often for too long. This needs to stop!
I have a simple guideline, based on personal experience and a keen observation of my college-mates, of how many times each garment must be worn before being deemed ready for a wash:
• Shirts: 2 person-days—that is, a shirt must be worn at least for 2 (not-necessarily-contiguous) full days by 1 person before being put for washing. (If two people wear the same shirt, then each must wear for 1 full day … ok, ok, just kidding!)
• Jeans: 1 person-month, or thereabouts. And remember, we are talking of days when jeans are worn. So, if you wear a pair 3 days a week, it should go at least 2 months before being washed.
• Trousers: 1 person-week. Yes, they can be worn 5-7 times before being washed.
• Towels: At my in-laws’ place in Mumbai, towels are washed every day. I could not understand it, to say the least. After all, you use a towel to merely pat a recently washed and cleaned body dry. The towel is not dirty—it’s just wet! Put it out in the sun to dry—and it is as good as new. At least three to six person-months!
• Underwear: Need I say more?
Come on. Stop being squeamish. We are after all in the Wild West—where men are—well, men short of water, as are the women! Just use deodorants as needed. Supplement with talcum powder. If all else fails, use baking soda!
4. Dishes—Stop Rinsing!
In other words, stop rinsing before loading in the washer.
This may be an Indian-American thing. I get blood pressure hearing the full blast of hot water from the kitchen faucet, as men around the state rinse pots and pans before putting them in the dishwasher. (I also do it—but I control the flow to a trickle!) We believe American dishwashers are not up to snuff with dried-up Indian food sticking to the said pots and pans. (I suspect our wives have put us up to this so the Indian male can finally be seen scrubbing and cleaning, as a symbol of the complete domestication, er, emancipation!)
Well, too bad. We have a drought on our hands, and this needs to stop at once!
Option 1—load the stuff directly in the dishwasher.
Option 2—fill sink with a little bit of warm water (no point filling it up and getting tempted to climb in it yourself!)and rinse all dishes, pots and pans using a brush—and load directly in the dishwasher. This is the good ol’ American way, I’m given to understand!
Option 3—get a dog!
5. Eight Glasses of Water a Day? Nah!
Drink water only when you are thirsty. Recent research suggests that the human body can do quite well without all that water.
Also, if you believe the 8-glasses theory, you are likely to be drinking (plastic) bottled water—which leads to more waste—half-empty bottles left all over the place and plastic garbage that sits in the middle of the Pacific. Plus, the more you drink, the more you need to pee—and flush. Literally, water down the drain.
Water in food, caffeinated beverages and alcohol also count towards those 8 cups. You get the point, just drink wine or beer instead. OK, people, I jest, but please humor me when I say that drinking wine to help the drought is my idea of a win-win!
But, if you do happen to pour yourself a cup of water, start by pouring only half. Research also suggests that we are all generally optimistic, “glass-half-full” kind of people—leaving around half-full cups of water, instead of drinking them fully.
6. Washing Your Car? Really?
Just pretend you are in one of those muddy-car (Subaru or VW?) commercials—driving proudly around the town, drawing applause everywhere. If visibility drops to zero, just spray some Windex on the windscreen!
Or you could organize regular “dirty-car-art” competitions in the neighborhood and show that you care.
But if you really must wash your car, get that bucket out and use that—in fact, it might still have some bath water left! Again, I will draw attention to an entire class of car-cleaning young boys who clean cars around the metros in India—unseen, unsung—the only sign that they actually cleaned your car being those upturned wipers and barely any sign of any water! Trust me, you can stretch that bucket of water a lot!
7. Some Toilet Training!
No note such as this could be completed without raising a stink if it did not cover toilet habits—and changes needed there.
You could really go out there—by pretending you are on a cruise in the Caribbean. And, the ship’s engine has conked out. Try and come up with “daily family flushing plans”—with features such as “carry-over flushes” and “transferable flushes.” Remember, it’s for a good cause. And it actually trains you to go on that cruise, should the bug bite you!!
But, if you are too squeamish about that, other things are possible! Low-flush toilets might be the way to go. Stop using that 2-ply paper, so you reduce the chances of you —or your over-plying young kids—blocking the bowl every now and then and wasting much more water clearing it up!
If you really want to make a big difference, and have the space for it, consider installing a dry-toilet! During a 2012 camping trip, we were impressed by what you could do, given sufficient chemical, to cover sight and smell … you get the picture. Just Google “dry-toilets” and you get a bunch of useful info.
As you can see, a lot can be achieved if we just tighten our towels, pull up our socks, cover our noses—and just do it!
I hope this has been helpful—I’d love to hear more such ideas that make a real dent in our water conservation efforts.
Mahesh Singh is co-founder, Sr. Vice President—Product, Digité, Inc. Over 25 years in Software and IT Consulting/ Services. Entrepreneur, father, husband. Enthusiastic about music, singing, cooking (have finally figured out how to make a mean biryani!), movies, outdoor activity—anything on water, hiking, running, cricket. I can be found on Twitter @maheshsingh and LinkedIn athttps://www.linkedin.com/in/singhmahesh