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Water water everywhere…

Reef Blues

Living on the sea, water is the one constant in our lives. The oceans are so vast, it is almost impossible to describe day after day of seeing nothing but water in all directions. At times it feels as if the whole universe is made of water.

But, of course the need for water, fresh drinking water, is one that we feel in our lives much more acutely here than we ever did living on land. Not only are we away from city mains with treated water supplies, and reliant on our own water tanks for our supply, but we have been making landfall in parts of the world where reliable drinking water is not guaranteed. In the year we spent in Latin America, we spent only three months in a country where you can drink the tap water (Costa Rica). The people living in Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Ecuador have to purchase bottled water to drink and for cooking, and some of these are the poorest people we have met on our travels so far.

However, many of the places we visited where you can’t drink the water are not that poor: In Bahía de Caráquez, Ecuador, the government is spending millions on a new bridge, when a fraction of that amount could be spent to treat the town’s water supply. Mexico is, compared to the other Latin American countries we visited, a wealthy nation and you can’t drink the water anywhere there.

Here in Polynesia, the water situation is much better. You can drink the water everywhere, and the large annual rainfall makes for a relative abundance of water most of the time. The people here don’t waste water, though, which is something we find we notice very easily now.

When we were in California, we installed a desalinator, which allows us to use electrical power and filters to make fresh water out of seawater. We have been very happy with it, filling up with “dock water” only twice since we left the USA. We did catch rain extensively in Central America, taking a cue from the locals who often have excellent raincatching facilities on their properties. The desalinator, along with our large 1000 litre tank, gives us a relatively large water budget on Scream. Many of our friends are not so lucky, their primary concern whenever they make landfall being “Where can I get water?”

Even with the comparatively large amount of water available to us, we have discovered that we use so much less water than we ever did on land, and we imagined ourselves to be conservationists then. We recently estimated that we average no more than 8 litres per day per person on Scream, and that seemed like a huge amount. Compare that to a single bathtub of water, which must be at least 200 litres!

We do our own laundry on board, and that 8L figure includes the year and a half when we did our laundry with a washing machine, which used about 50-60 litres per load. We shower regularly, even underway, but we can no longer imagine the days of standing under a running tap for five minutes. Even in the USA, when we used shore facilities, the dollar for three minutes showers would do both Steven and myself with time left over for luxuriating.

It has become obvious to us that the way we used water when we lived on land is incredibly wasteful compared to the the way so many people live around the world. Being at sea and having to actively manage our water usage and creation, I feel like I’ve learned a valuable lesson in not taking for granted a single drop that comes from our taps.

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This post is crossposted from my sailing blog and is part of Blog Action Day.

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