Water Waste: A 21-Day 2 Gallon-a-Day Water Challenge Lesson

This 21-day water challenge evolved from a story pitch. I've been on a minimalism journey since 2020, and while sharing some of my recent lifestyle changes during an interview, I was offered a challenge. Only using three gallons of water a day sparked, and the project grew.

I've learned to need and want less because of the uncertainty of 2020 and 2021. But as life settles in, I'm more conscious of my responsibilities. This year, I've seen non-stop headlines about poor water quality in cities, towns, and even public schools. Rivers are drying up, and cities are flooding. I hope drinking water never becomes a luxury.

Minimalism is preparing me for the worst. Now I consume less, and as often as possible, I only consume with intent. The future feels bleak at times, but I've stopped being hopeful. This past year has brought new connections and new inspiration.

The work is always being done. You just have to find the job that suits you.

The full water challenge story is in my new quarterly zine. Text only preview below.

It Started From Fear

I couldn’t appreciate water until it humbled me. I was terrified of drowning growing up, so I never learned to swim until my 20s. But from 2012 -2014, I lived on South Beach Miami and nearly every morning, while the sun slowly crept over the horizon, I stroked and kicked through the chaos of the sea. In 2018, I snorkeled off the shores of Maui, pushing through coral and wading idly by a sea turtle gasping for relief.

I'd eventually find nirvana meditating on the shoreline during a warm Miami rain. Over the next decade, I'd exercise on the shoreline, drank a gallon of water daily, capture snow capped mountains through my camera lens, and feel thunder pulsate through my body while recluding under a tree during a rainstorm.

Now I only fear not having water. In April, I ran my first half-marathon; with over 500 other people. How much water did every runner consume to get there? How much water will they consume to run the next marathon and the next?

This is my future.

May 1st: Notification

This morning I woke up and saw the notification: I’m only allowed three gallons of water for May.

May 2: How I Ration

One gallon for drinking water.

Two gallons for cleaning and hygiene.

I’ll sacrifice my water use, but I won’t sacrifice my lifestyle. I still need to run, exercise, hike, explore.

I have one plate, knife, fork, and spoon for the week. The plate gets wiped and put aside. The utensils get placed in a cup with water after use, aAnd wiped with a hand towel before use. My messy morning bowl of oatmeal gets a dash of soap, some water from my jug and scrubbed with a swedish dish towel.

For my showers, I boil water in my kettle, mix it with cold water, drop a dab of shampoo onto a rag and scrub my pits, and private.

I pee in the tub, and pour water down the drain to follow.

My toothbrush gets soaked in a 4 oz cup. I dab toothpaste, rinse my mouth and wash the spit away with the leftover water.

Day 3: Park Pooper

I’ve been driving to the park to use poop. At 7 am, the birds are chirping, the newly grown grass is a vibrant green. I’ve missed Spring.

At night I go for walks around the neighborhood to clear my head. I walked by a commercial building and two sprinklers were broken pouring water. I wrote down the phone number on the sign and will call tomorrow.

Sometimes no one tells someone they’ve done a poor job.

Clifford Genece

Clifford Genece