Rachel’s Water Challenge: Reflections from my mother

My mum, a very committed CAFOD supporter and volunteer, is supporting me in spirit and action this week and sent me some reflections which I thought were worth sharing with you all:

“Saturday 21st January 2012

As I luxuriated in my hot bath strewn with rose petals of soap on Saturday morning we contemplated how to rise to ‘Rachel’s Water Challenge’ as part of the Thirst for Change Campaign.

Should we try it – if not for the whole week, for at least a day?

Having worked in Kenya for over 4 years I have already experienced the privations of limited access to water. Fortunately all the villages I worked in had a borehole but the pumps could not always be relied upon. Once, as we waited for spare parts to arrive, I even cut up my shoes to make the leather washers we needed.

In the meantime we had to walk to the next village with a borehole, 2 hours away in the searing heat. After taking our turn in the queue the longed for water tasted ‘thin’, not as thirst-quenching as our own because of the salts in it – and it still had to be carried all the way back.

Imagine then the joy of going to Nairobi 800km away and being able to turn on a tap for unlimited supplies of sweet water. However, on reflection it is notable how quickly we came to accept this and take it for granted, and how shocking it was to learn that access to safe water was only recognised as a human right in 2010.

So we [Rachel’s Dad and I] have decided to monitor our use of water for a day.


Sunday 22nd January 2012 

Well I don’t envy Rachel her task.

I started keeping a chart & tally on Sunday morning. I’d probably used her quota before I even got to church.

The shower was a big element – the 700ml run off before it became warm enough to get in, quickly became 7 litres.

Washing up took a further 8 litres.

Throughout the day I drank about 2 litres.

I’m usually fairly economical when brushing my teeth (old habits from Kenya) but hand-washing used about another 2 litres – though possibly a lot more because of a tap in public toilets in the park that wouldn’t switch off soon enough. I know they are designed to stop people leaving them on, which is good, but if they could issue in shorter bursts it would be better.

Preparation of food and cooking put paid to another 2 litres.

Then disaster struck – dog poo! Even with careful use of tissue and disinfectant another 3 litres went down the drain cleaning up my trainers and the car and, if I’m honest, a lot more would normally have been sluiced down in the process.

All together I reckon I used about 25 litres on a day I was being careful – but that doesn’t include flushing toilets (though we do reuse shower water for some of this) and we didn’t use the dishwasher or toilet that day or clean the car or water the garden or….. not to mention the water that’s used on my behalf manufacturing the many things I have around me.

Next time it rains I must remember to say ‘Thank you, God!'”



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About cafodhallam

CAFOD is an aid and development agency dedicated to improving the lives of the poorest in our world. In the UK we work to educate people about the causes of poverty, inspire them to campaign to address issues of social justice and inequality, and support them in fundraising activities. Overseas we work with local partners in 40 countries in South America, Africa and Asia to deliver long-term development projects and emergency aid. CAFOD's headquarters are in London and CAFOD Hallam is the local office for Sheffield and the surrounding area.

2 thoughts on “Rachel’s Water Challenge: Reflections from my mother

  1. Re washing your car – have you got a water butt? They are a good source of water for jobs like this especially in winter when we get more rainwater than we need to water gardens, etc

    • Hi Teresa,
      I don’t have a water butt but my parents have one – filled by a pipe and gutter fitted to their shed. It’s great – they use the stored rainwater to water the garden in dry spells and for other tasks where the water doesn’t necessarily have to be clean. Many of CAFOD’s water projects overseas are about exactly this – helping people to capture and reserve the water/rain that they do get by building, for example, reservoirs and irrigation systems which maximise a community’s ability to grow crops, keep animals, etc.
      I don’t have plans to wash my car this week, thank goodness. Washing my clothes was water-consuming enough – I don’t think I’d manage my car too!

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