Stewardship of Life

Water, Water Everywhere…a Nickel Here, a Dime There

Posted in Just Living by Sharron R. Lucas on January 5, 2010

North Americans use too much water. This is fact. We have easy access to this precious natural resource, and as a result most of us don’t think about the amount of water we use. Do we feel entitled to more than our fair share of the world’s water? Or is it just that we are fortunate to live in a part of the world where we do not face the water crisis on a daily basis (or at least delude ourselves into thinking that it’s not our problem)? Consider these points:

The U.S. Geological Survey reports that “about 410,000 million gallons per day of water was withdrawn for use in the United States during 2005” (

The World Health Organization reports that contaminated water may be traced as the source of 80% of the world’s sickness and disease.

A report released by the World Water Council states that 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation. 1.8 million people die every year from diarrheal diseases, 90 percent of whom are children under the age of five. 3,900 children die every day because of dirty water or poor hygiene (


So how much water do we use? One source reports the following statistics:

In Japan and North America each person uses an average of 159 gallons of water per day. (Only ½ of 1% or .795 gallons of that is for drinking purposes.). In Europe the average water usage per person in a day ranges from 66.14 gallons to 92.59. In the sub-Sahara regions they average 2.65 gallons to 5.29 gallons and many have to walk up to 10 hours to find drinking water. Few affluent nations have implemented measures to conserve water (

One hundred fifty-nine gallons per day! That’s a lot of water, folks, especially when one considers that less than a gallon of that went to satisfy our thirst. Lest we smugly assume that our water supplies are safe, check some recent reports about exactly what is found in municipal water systems—everything from nitrates to Prozac to antibiotics.

I’ve been aware of this growing problem for awhile now and have worked to reduce my water consumption. My affiliation with The Compact has helped a lot with reducing water consumption, but while I’ve made some strides, there is much more that I can do—and so can you. That is why I chose to begin my ethical life audit with something that is necessary to sustain life itself—H2O.

Yesterday, every time I turned on the faucet, flushed the toilet, and used the shower, I put a nickel in a jar. I know, a nickel doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t in the grand scheme of things, but I figured at least that would make me more aware of what I was doing. I ended up with 95 cents at the end of the day—nineteen incidences of water usage throughout the day. That’s not too bad, is it? After all, it was my day off, and I was home all day. Well, yes and no. What I discovered is that at least seven of those faucet flips, I really didn’t need to turn on the tap. I could have waited or done something differently.

I’m going to keep going with this personal “water tax.” Even if it only adds up to six or seven dollars a week or $300 – $400 a year, I think the awareness generated will be priceless. I plan to give my “tax” proceeds to support the Troesters, a family of ELCA missionaries in the Central African Republic. Dr. Joe Troester is a hydrologist working with PASE, a French organization, to address the water crisis in that country and to provide education about better hygiene. Pastor Deborah Troester, his spouse, teaches in the Theological School in Baboua. Their daughter Krista is a student. You can read more about their work in this very poorest of nations at

This is an improved latrine in the Central African Republic, image courtesy Dr. Joe Troester.

The parish I serve participated in The Advent Conspiracy this year, and we raised over $800 through special offerings specifically to address the water crisis in the Central African Republic through the Troesters’ work there. So that is why I’ll continue to support their work, but there are many worthy water projects you might consider, including Living Water International and Circle of Blue. The point is to do something, to make yourself aware of the problem, and to make this issue a stone in your shoe or a burr under your saddle.

How many times did you turn the faucet on today? I’m up to 20 cents and there’s a lot of morning left. Water, water everywhere…really?

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