I’ve been talking for a while about having bucket baths instead of showers to save water. In part, my logic says that if I’ve gone to the other side of the world to study environmental ethics (Edinburgh, Scotland), I should be living out my values. Yet, anyone who knows me well would know that of all the choices our household has made this is by far the most self-sacrificial.
I find nothing more enjoyable than taking a long, hot, soothing shower. It is a little bit of luxury that I deserve, I tell myself. It is something that I’ve been saying for the last 20 years.
Yet, as I read the “Water, water” article in The Age newspaper, I am challenged again to curb my self-indulgent water habit. Gallagher writes that despite a good dose of rain in the last month (it was the wettest June since 2001), we can’t take a collective sigh of relief. She points to experts who reckon it will “take more than a decade of good rainfall to fill the state’s catchments.” And, while Melbourne Water’s John Woodland comforts us by pointing out that they are huge dams to fill, Gallagher notes that storage levels are also affected by logging and levels of moisture in the soil in the catchment areas. Simon Birrell, from the Melbourne Water Catchment Network explains that logging not only reduces the levels of water flowing into dams but also increases bushfire risks.
It all seems all so overwhelming. It pours in June and yet it isn’t good enough. We have big dams, but we’ve created a rod for our own backs by allowing logging in these important areas. What can I do in response? Should I embark on another challenge to curb my water use?
My first response is no. If I opt for a bucket bath I fail at the first hurdle because I simply don’t have the infrastructure. You see, I have a good enamel bowl, but no enamel jug. And it has to be a matching set before I can begin this venture.
On the other hand, this isn’t just about the level of our dams (sitting at 33.7% currently). It’s about what I am saying I think is important through my actions. Even if our dams were 80% full, I don’t really need to have that five – or twelve – minute shower.
We can look at this bucket bath issue from another point of view. And this is where it moves from a commitment to an interesting challenge. We use 138 litres of water a person a day in our household (see target155). That is 413 litres a day shared between three people. (Some may say I’m cheating by counting our 8 month old daughter in that calculation. But I reckon that with all the extra cleaning, cooking, loads of nappies and other wash, as well as a bath once or twice a week, she is definitely contributing to our water use.) The challenge becomes seeing just how much damage my showers are doing to our water use compared with my new bucket baths.
The challenge: I’m going to use a basin and a little bowl (pictured), until I can locate a white-with-blue-edging enamel jug. The basin holds 5 litres of water. That is the limit for my bucket baths. Five litres. Five. When our next water bill comes in, we can do a comparison. That’s assuming I can stick to my resolve and opt for a scant wash instead of a luxurious hot downpour.