Did you know that there are over 700 million people that don’t have access to clean drinking water, and over 2 billion that don’t have access to proper sanitation?
This blew my mind!
With that knowledge, I wanted to bring awareness to how often we take for granted how easy we can have clean, drinkable, potable, flushable, water just at a flick of a wrist. The average daily water use in America is 80-100 gallons per person. This includes drinking, cooking, bathing, teeth-brushing, and toilet use.
So, my thinking is I need to draw attention to this. Someone needs to make sure other know about how fortunate we are in our communities. In central Minnesota, we’re blessed with miles and miles and acres and acres of fresh drinkable water. However, we must be good stewards of these abundant riches.
So, my plan is to use zero water for 48 hours. I planned on utilizing none of these.
You read that right.
No water of any kind. No juices, no soft drinks, no teas, and no energy drinks.
No bathing. That means no showers, no sponge baths, and no hand-washing (yuck).
No toilet use. I’ve taken that to mean essentially means no flushing or normal toilet use. Luckily, the engineers up here at the HUG campus have designed a composting toilet, which uses zero water. How fortuitous. I will use hand sanitizer for clean up afterwards, just to be safe. But, remember those over 2 billion people that DON’T have access to hand sanitizer, let alone soap and water.
No teeth brushing. This is a huge deal for me. I brush my teeth at least 3 times a day, sometimes more. It’s a dumb obsession I have. I won’t leave the house before slapping the ol toothbrush between the gums. It’s something I’ll just have to deal with, maybe by using gum or mints.
I decided that I wouldn’t count the water that goes into food production towards my strike. But, I wanted you guys to be aware of how much water we use in agriculture (in both the veggies and meat!) I looked up the numbers and it is astronomical how much water goes into making our foods. Potatoes & broccoli use 34 gallons to grow. Rice needs 299 gallons. Tofu takes 302 gallons. Chicken takes 518 gallons but beef takes a whopping 1,847 gallons to raise, butcher, and bring to your plate.
Looking at this, I couldn’t even eat rice balls without breaking my strike. I decided that, while it’s important to note how much water we use without even recognizing it, I needed to pick my battle and go without just water on the home scale.
I looked into the physical symptoms of what happens to your body as water use is limited. After one day, you start to become dehydrated (duh). Your urine becomes darker. Your lips and mouth will become dry. You’ll become more hungry (however, your body is sending the wrong signal. It’s actually screaming out that it wants water and somehow your body misinterprets it.) But, the most worrying thing I saw at one day is that your internal cooling system will start to become unstable. You body relies heavily on water to keep you in the not-too-hot-and-not-too-cold range. I realized I would have to rearrange my exercise schedule to fit this.
After two days, you’re body begins to change. As your body tries to squeeze every drop of water out of your muscles and fat, you will experience severe cramps. You’ll also notice how difficult going #2 is. Which is a good thing, because the average toilet flushes 5-7 gallons per use! That’s nuts. Luckily, when I feel the need to use a toilet, there is a handy compost toilet just in the other building up here at HUG Campus. This could prove tricky for the midnight possibilities, but I’ll be prepared.
In addition to those symptoms, you start feeling nauseated and lethargic, both good reasons to skip workout on these days.
I wanted to limit my water strike to just two days because severe bodily harm happens if you go much further without. Vomiting and diarrhea are final symptoms before the body’s organs start shutting down. I want to avoid this.
Besides, how hard can going without water be?
Hour 1/48: Last drink: 3:37 pm Tuesday March 13th.
Weight: 180 lbs
Blood pressure: 120/76
Hour 3/48: First meal – 6:12 pm Tuesday, March 13
Lemon pepper cod with rice
One thing that I really didn’t take into account was the water needed to make a meal for my family. During the prep for dinner, I used water to steam the broccoli, cook the rice and wash the blueberries. This is something that I was able to do by going to my kitchen faucet, flip the tap, instantly have clean, potable water. In fact, the most difficult part about preparing the meal that was “water-related” was cleaning up the ice chips that fell off the frozen broccoli. Water is ridiculously easy to use where I live.
Hour 4.5/48: 7:55 PM: A headache started forming. I don’t think it has much to do with dehydration, but probably muscle tension. I took two Tylenol to deal with the pain using a Jello cup to help wash them down.
Hour 5.5/48: 9:00 Snack – Two mint Oreos. I’m not sure if you know this, but Oreos taste infinitely better with a glass of milk to help the process along. Without a little liquid lubrication, you’re stuck with a feeling of stuff stuck between your teeth…with little way to clean them up.
Hour 7/48: Sleep at 11:30 PM
Hour 15/48: Wake at 7:15 am, Wednesday, March 14
Blood pressure: 117/77
Definitely, some things were on my mind. I dreamed of zombie apocalypse and Russian apples. The apples needed a certain water from a certain tap to grow. Weird. Tossed and turned and did not rest well. Possible many reasons for that, though. My work is centered around monitoring social media, whether through Tweetdeck or Facebook News, I am under a stream of consciousness of our culture. So I’m not sure what my brain is telling me but…maybe I need to limit my feeds.
Going back to my symptoms, I woke up with a sore throat. My mouth had a cottony feel to it. It was hard to swallow. However, after a few moments, saliva returned and was able to breathe and swallow normally.
Hour 16/48 Breakfast 8:30 I made a ham and cheese omelette. It was hard to swallow after the meal. A small pain in throat occurred every time. Probably not a symptom, yet, but could be. Also, this is probably the longest I’ve gone without brushing my teeth in years.
Hour 17/48: 9:28 – I’ve noticed that my nose is very dry. This could simply be the dry winter air, or another symptom worth noting.
Hour 18/48: 10:45 – I needed to use the bathroom. Badly. It has been near a day since I’ve relieved myself and I was fortunate that the engineers at Hunt Utilities Group have a working compost toilet. It’s set up, in fact, just outside the little gym we have on campus. As there is a working regular shower/bathroom facility I have seen, really, little reason to try it out. However, I had reason to on this day. It turns out it works just fine. There’s no smell due to a negative pressure system they put in place, sucking all fumes out the building. Pretty perfect.
However, let’s talk a little bit about the water needed for sanitation. Stats say that 1 in 3 humans lack access to a toilet. That’s ANY kind of toilet. There are more people that have a mobile phone than have access to a toilet. That’s a little backwards, I think. There are more people able to scroll through Facebook than people able to sit down on a toilet and scroll through Facebook.
Hour 19/48: 11:10 – I ran two miles on the treadmill. My legs ended up sore, but not anything worse than normal. My calves ached, but I chalk that up to a lingering fasciitis injury. I decided to run because a change in my routine would be like cheating. I wanted to feel how my life would be impacted without water, not what it would be like to minimize the impact of a life without water. So, if I normally worked out on and ran cardio on Wednesday mornings, I wanted to continue that.
Hour 20/48 Lunch 12:25pm – I always have lunch with my mom on Wednesdays. We go to the local diner. I ordered a french dip with french fries. It turns out that this was a bad choice. The as jus sauce was salty. I didn’t remember how salty it’d be. I only ate about ten fries as my mouth just wouldn’t let me swallow them. During the meal, my mom pleasantly sipped her ice water through a straw.
Also, my friends were very supportive during my strike:
Hour 22/48: 1:24 – Every other week, we record a podcast focused on the the garden. We recorded for about an hour. I noticed that my throat was super dry afterwards. Got offered a breath mint. My dad always told me to never turn down a mint.
Hour 24/48: 3:21 pm – I made it halfway through the strike! Only 24 hours to go! During my work day, I felt warm. It was a sunny day and any heat was probably brought on due to the long windows facing directly south, but one thing I was warned about was the body’s lack of ability to regulate temperature. But, best to write this down, just in case. I left work after using the compost toilet one last time before the next day. Again, it worked wonderfully. No smell and easy to use. Yet, I’m sure I stank worse than the toilet.
Hour 26/48: 5:35 pm
Blood pressure: 113/83
Dinner – I put together something real low-energy. We had chicken fingers, green beans, canned peaches, and then apples for dessert. I relished eating the peaches, savoring them in my mouth. As well as the apple.
Hour 27/48 6:15 pm – During dinner cleanup, I poured a glass of unused water down the sink. It broke my heart.
Hour 30/48 9:10 PM – A crazy notion came to me. My water-deprived brain came up with the idea that ice cream would feel good on my dry throat. I grabbed an ice-cream sandwich and sure enough, it went down easy. However, after a few moments my throat felt even worse. The sugar and milk just coated my throat making it even more difficult to swallow. Plus! I accidentally washed my hands after cleaning up an the wrapper. I didn’t even think about it until the water was dropping off my hands. It was just so easy to take my clean hands for granted, even when I haven’t used water for over a day.
Hour 31/48 10:52 pm – My stomach is starting to feel queasy.
Hour 31/48 11:02 pm – I’m heading to bed to escape bad headaches.
Blood pressure: 126/93
Hour 39/48 7:45 am – Wake up. All through the night I had leg cramps in my thighs and calves. Could be from the workout yesterday, but a lack of water might have worsened the conditions.
Blood pressure 110/80
Hour 41/48: 9:32 am – I Just did a little ten minute cardio session, up and down my stairs, just something to get my blood moving. I haven’t eaten breakfast, yet, and I realize I should have eaten something sooner, but nothing really interested me in terms of food. I was interested in a large glass of orange juice, though.
Hour 42/48 10:35 am – Oh man the headaches are back. Do you know how hard it is to dry swallow Tylenol? Less than five hours to go.
Hour 43/48 11:11 am I finally eat breakfast of an apple. I didn’t want anything else. Everything else just seems like it would be too salty. I figured that the moisture from the apple would keep me going, bringing my body walking, instead of crawling, towards the finish line.
Hour 43/48 11:33 am – I just weighed myself after forgetting to do it at wake-up. I’m down to 175. Five pounds less from yesterday. I read somewhere that actors doing shirtless scenes and competitive bodybuilders will go through a fast similar to what I’ve been doing to lose quick weight. I would emphatically suggest that this NOT be done on a regular basis.
Hour 44/48 12:07 pm – Less than three hours left, but I’ve noticed this morning that my ears are constantly “ plugging” themselves everyone I swallow. This has happened before when I’ve not had enough water during workout sessions. It’s like listening to someone talk like they’re underwater.
Hour 46/48 1:40 pm – Lunch: I ate a handful of raspberries. Not interested in eating anything substantial. Everything we own in the house is drenched in salt. Nuts, chips, bread, even the”healthy” stuff like rice, beans, or veggies seem to me like they’d just give me a rough go if I tried. I decided I could wait.
Hour 48/48 4:00 pm – I got through it. I immediately at, 3:07 took two large mugs it water, sipped them slowly. Once my mouth rehydrated and my tongue was able to enjoy a couple slices of banana bread to help ease my stomach.
After: The stomach pain subsided slowly. The headaches and muscle soreness were a different matter. It took a bit longer for the water to reach my muscles and alleviate my headache. It took a day for all serious symptoms to go away.
For a conclusion, there’s really only one thing that you need to know:
I had it ridiculously easy.
In order to draw attention to the harsh daily routines that so many people must endure, I had to go through a stupid water strike that only made my day, essentially, a little annoying. People, every day (!), are going through much worse, much more than my little experiment. Please remember that on World Water Day, Thursday, March 22.