Let’s put that number into perspective: When racing a 40ft yacht across the Atlantic with a crew of 8, I provision for 20 days at sea and will take 400ltr of drinking water and a further 250ltr in the tanks for washing and cooking. This works out at just a little over 4ltrs per person, per day. So how when on land is water consumption 35 times more?
Well, we are literally flushing the majority of our water down the toilet. When we breakdown the overall usage of water used on land, flushing the toilet (22%) and having a shower (25%) are using almost half of the average water consumption. According to the Energy Saving Trust, the other big culprit to water wastage is running the cold tap (22%), the washing machine, bath, bathroom hot tap making up only 24% altogether. So how do sailors manage on only 4ltrs per day?!
The simple answer is scarcity. As sailors, we know that there is a finite resource, so we have to live within our resources or else we’ll run out and have no way of re-provisioning until we reach land.
What are the secrets to living a water-saving sailor life?
Firstly, racing yacht don’t have any appliances that use freshwater automatically. So, no washing machine or dishwasher – and the majority of toilets on board such yachts are pump-action and use seawater. By not having such appliances, we’re able to quantify how much water is actually being used.
On average sailors only have two showers a week when at sea, a transatlantic crossing may consist of even less. Dry shampoo and baby wipes are a sailor’s best friend! However, if the luxury of showing does occur, the process is short and sweet. Methods often include being given a pre-filled jug of a measured amount of water, to use as you wish. Or a quick spray from the shower, turning it off to lather up, then another quick spray to rise off. Another eco-friendly option is using a rainwater solar shower, however, provides fresh warm water, and is used on deck giving you lovely views of the surrounding scenery.
Washing – clothes and dishwashing follow a similar process. This consists of using seawater to wash and scrub the item with nature-friendly detergents (Ecover non – bio), so it’s clean, then dunk each item in a bucket of fresh water to get rid of the salty feel.
Food & Drink
Cooking – Sailing uses lots of energy so you need to refuel. When pushed for time, freeze-dried packet food is a go-to option and as a bonus, they only need a tiny bit of freshly boiled water (300ml). For fine dining, pasta and potatoes are a great source of energy, and the cooking method even includes free seasoning! Cook them in a combination of fresh and saltwater, to save precious water reserves, and make use of natural flavouring.
Drinking – This is the main and most important use for water onboard a boat, but it still needs to be recorded, measured and conserved. Each day the crew will record how much each person has drunk, allowing them to see if anyone may be dehydrated, and how much water is left. This provides a daily average of water consumption until the next stop.
So is there a happy medium between land and life at sea consumption?
Here are a few changes we can all make at home:
Toilets – Many toilets now days have a dual flush system. By using the lighter flush option you could save up to 7,000 litres of water per person per year.
Washing machines – The average household runs the washing machine 4.7 times per week, why not reduce that amount or change the wash settings. Running a washing machine at 30′ or below and/or on an eco setting wastes less water and is more efficient. Another friend of sailors is Day 2 spray. This magic stuff not only freshens your clothes but also gets all of the creases out!
Dishwashers – In many cases, a dishwasher can be more eco-friendly than washing up by hand if used to maximum potential. Use the dishwasher on an eco setting and only run when full. The average for washing up by hand is 10 times per week, here the ‘two bowls are better than one’ method is recommended. This completely eliminates the risk of leaving the tap running. Fill one bowl with soapy water, to scrub the dishes in, then use the other bowl, filled with freshwater, to rinse the bubbles off.
When washing your face, and brushing your teeth you can reduce water waste by not leaving the tap running. To brush your teeth use a drop of water on the toothpaste, brush your teeth with the tap off, then do a quick rinse. Flannels and cleansing wipes are a good way to reduce water wastage. Newer showers tend to have an eco setting that restricts the flow of water through the showerhead, meaning less water. Another way to reduce the amount of water used is to have shorter showers by installing an hourglass timer, this physically shows how long you’ve been in the shower and its an entertaining race against the clock!
Food and drink:
Why not use a water butt to collect freshwater, which can then be used to boil water to make dinner or a cuppa. Make sure when boiling the kettle you only need the water you need to reduce energy wastage, as well as water wastage when cooking food.
So whether you’re at home or on the sea, you can do your bit now to make life a little more water-efficient.