50 Challenging Days

– by Andy Wade –

well pumpDuring Lent we posted several articles about The Overflow Project, ending with a call to join “The 50-Day Challenge”. At Mustard Seed Associates, we didn’t want to just post about good things that are happening, we want to participate in them! That’s why we personally took up the challenge.

Periodically over these 50 days different people on our MSA team will post about how we have entered the challenge and what we are learning – today is my day.

So what am I up to? Well, I decided to enter the challenge on different levels. First is one that I meant to start a long time ago, but didn’t. I’m riding my motorcycle to work everyday instead of taking the car. Yes, it would be even better to ride my bicycle, but for various reasons, that’s just not going to happen.

Taiwan MotorcycleLest you think this is all in fun, we’ve entered the rainy season here in the Gorge – I’ve got the gear for it, so I’m on my motorcycle. What flashed through my mind was that this is how many people around the world get around. Our two years in Taiwan and trips into Mainland China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Philippines were all reminders of this. In a way, I ride in solidarity with them. (We didn’t see this in Hong Kong, but in a city of seven million with an excellent public transportation system and a system that discourages vehicle ownership, I’m not surprised!)

But still, this felt a bit too much like justifying fun.

Since we’re a large household and not all on board with the challenge, I didn’t want to impose on others in the house… much. But since we’re dealing with water I thought I’d take another look at our water system. Sure enough, when we moved in here I forgot to change out the shower heads.

I purchased two low-flow heads for our showers, decreasing the water flow from 2.5 gallons/minute to 1.5 gallons/minute.

Now we’ve talked a lot about taking shorter showers, but we still have three people in the house who take 15-20 minute showers! Doing the math, and adding 5 minutes each for my wife and I, that little change works out to an average savings to 62 gallons of water per day!

And it’s not just the water, it’s all the gas used to heat the water – both an environmental and economic issue.

So where else do I waste water? Since I’m an avid gardener, perhaps that’s a good place to explore. Two years ago I switched from a sprinkler system to a drip irrigation system. I don’t really know how to calculate how much water we saved by doing that – we’re on a farming irrigation line so don’t use city water for this. Along with this we’ve been tearing up water-intensive lawn and putting in more gardens. This year I’m exploring permaculture gardening which requires little to no extra watering! If all goes well, the entire garden will be converted to this method in the next couple of years!

Where I live, we don’t typically have water issues. There have been seasons of water restrictions due to low snowfall, but even then, not usually even until the last month of summer. We don’t have to pay expensive rates for city water to water the garden. So why should I care? The reality is that water shortages will soon be the norm. In many parts of the world this is already a fact of life. Old habits die hard so it’s good to begin forming new ones BEFORE a crisis comes. This is also a good way to stand in solidarity with those around the world who lack adequate clean water supplies.

As I examine all of this in light of the 50-Day Challenge, I’m humbled. My efforts seem so small compared to such a huge issue. And yet our part of the world, with our abundance of clean water, needs to start re-framing our whole attitude toward water.

In our ever-increasing thirst for cheap fuel, we’re fracking and pumping our rivers dry while returning toxic waters to the land. What we need to learn, before it becomes critical, is that water is an essential resource for healthy living. We need to not only help the world’s population that already knows this reality, we need to learn from them just how important this resource is.

Back to my challenge. I’m not even sure how to calculate what we’ve “saved” through the minor changes we’ve made. I will take a wild guess, and add to that an offering of gratitude for the current gift of abundant, clean water that we have. I suppose if we were really radical we would donate my wife’s entire salary in true solidarity with women around the world who spend the majority of their days collecting water and firewood to keep their families alive. Hmmmm.