Living water scarcity malawi

Published on June 27th, 2014 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg


Living Global Water Scarcity: the Four Liter Challenge

people living with water scarcity in malawi

How much water do you think you use every day? Not just drink… but use for cooking, bathing, and cleaning? 10 gallons? 50? How about 145 gallons (or 550 liters) every day? That’s the American average per person… unfortunately, as I learned at this week’s Further with Ford conference, that’s yet another area in which we in the US indulge ourselves well beyond the rest of the world. Global water scarcity limits some of the world’s poorest people to a mere 4 liters – or just a smidge over 1 gallon – a day.

That’s right: 4 litres for all of the things mentioned above. No long hot showers, no leaving the water on while brushing your teeth, no taking a few sips and then dumping the rest: that water is very precious for about 800 million people worldwide. Could you do this: live on just four liters a day? Not just a small fraction of what we normally consume, but even a mere 10-12% of the water needed to live at minimal standards of health and wellness?

George McGraw, the founder of DIGDEEP, a non-profit focused on the global water crisis, offered those of us at the “Sustainability Blues” session an opportunity to commit to such a water-scarce lifestyle… for just a few days. See, DIGDEEP hosts the 4 Liter Challenge, an event in October in which those of us who live with vast water wealth commit to “trying on” water poverty for just a few days. The concept: experiencing water scarcity at this level will make it real for us. Here’s a video overview created by the organization:

Yes, this is also an event for fundraising for DIGDEEP; last year’s first 4 Liter Challenge not only got 600 people to try out water poverty for 2-5 days, but also netted over $17,000 for the organization’s efforts to bring fresh water to parts of the world lacking it (including places here in the US – not every American gets their own 55o liters every day).

Interested in participating? The next challenge is already taking volunteers (including a few people that raised their hand during George’s presentation on Wednesday); you can find out more at the event’s web site.

Could you do it? Will you? I’m still deciding myself… let us know what you think.

Please note: Ford paid all of my travel and lodging expenses for the Further with Ford event.

Image credit: Lars Plougmann at Wikimedia Commons cc

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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at

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