Well, thank goodness for my ‘leftovers’! My washing basket was in serious danger of overflow, so I decided to bite the bullet and do a clothes wash. But I would never have managed it on my daily allowance alone.
I had to use what remained of my water allowance for the day, plus several litres of water saved from previous days. I tried to remember the technique I perfected while I lived in India – soak, soap, scrub, rinse – but at the project where I lived the issue, for the most part, was a lack of washing machine, not a lack of water, so I was not concerned with also trying to conserve the used water for flushing the toilet.
It took 1 ½ hours and about 9 litres of water to wash my clothes by hand, and that was on a load about a third of the size I would normally cram into the washing machine. My mistake, I think, was to use too much detergent. It wasn’t so much the wetting and soaping of clothes, but trying to rinse all the suds out of them that took so much water.
By the end of it I had so little water left that I was unable to wash up the pans I’d used to cook my tea. They’ll have to wait until tomorrow.
The thing that this challenge is beginning to make me appreciate is how time-consuming the accomplishment of all water-related tasks becomes when water does not just flow easily from a tap. Walking to fetch it, boiling it and teaming-and-ladling it to have a wash, or wash dishes, or wash clothes, all take so much more effort. How and when I do these things has become an ever-present thought, and the routine of my life is having to change to ensure that they are accomplished.
A small example: I knew that I would be in this evening and my housemate had friends round. But rather than being able to spend time and socialise with them as I would like to have done, I realised I had to use the time to do my clothes wash as I wouldn’t get chance for the rest of the week. For me, this is just a tiny insight into the frustration which must be felt by millions of women and girls on whom the burden of water collection and housework rests. How unfair that they should miss out on socialising, education and work because of a lack of something as basic as water.
Thirst for Change. Please email David Cameron and call on him to lead the world in demanding clean water and safe sanitation for all. Together, we can turn the tide on water poverty. www.cafod.org.uk/thirst
PS – yes, the soon-to-be-patented ‘Two Litre Bath’ washing process also works for hair…
About the author: From Sunday 22nd – Saturday 28th January Rachel Wood will be trying to live on 10 litres of water each day, which she will walk 1km to collect, in order to experience a little of what life is like for those who live in water poverty.
Are you thirsting for change? Go to http://www.cafod.org.uk/thirst to see how you can take the water challenge or get involved with the campaign.