ALS Ice Bucket Challenge vs.
Drought

I agree that we should not be wasting water because California, and many other parts of the country, are in a severe drought. I also agree that dumping water and ice on yourself contributes to the aforementioned drought. However, I do not agree with all of the people who have been calling out the #ALSIceBucketChallenge because it is “wasting” water during a drought. Here is a crucial definition:

waste (v.): use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose.

I would argue that this isn’t even a discussion about wasting water; by definition the water is not being wasted. The water is serving the purpose of raising awareness and money for ALS. The better question to ask is: is it worth it using this water to support this charity.

By saying that this challenge is wasting water, you are equating water consumption with water waste. By the same logic, the water you drink every day is “wasted.” But that’s obviously false. The water isn’t wasted. You made a calculated decision and concluded that even though there is a drought, it is worth it to drink this water to survive.

So next time you comment on this Challenge, please don’t tell me the water is being wasted. Tell me that it is not worth it to use this water for this cause. If you believe that the Ice Bucket Challenge is using water “to no purpose,” then so be it. All I ask is that before you make an overblown, cynical claim about water being wasted, at least know what the words you are using even mean in the first place.

To put it simply, the Ice Bucket Challenge’s contributions to the current drought is infinitesimal. There are definitely times to speak out about wasting water, but I believe that the ALS Challenge is not the right time to do so. While I completely believe in a person’s right to express his or her views, I also believe that he or she should try to make as informed of as decision as possible. Here is a quick run down on the numbers:

40 million

The first important thing that you should know is that there are roughly 40 million people in California.

100 Gallons

This is the number of gallons that you consume each day. The EPA reports that the average 4 person family consumes 400 gallons of water every day. At first this seems like a lot. However, when you look at the numbers, this almost seems like a modest estimate. Here are just some of the ways that we use our water:

Toilets

Toilets contribute to roughly 30% of all household water consumption. Roughly 1.28 gallons are used when a toilet is flushed. This is also probably a low number on average because the EPA only just recently started enforcing a standard maximum of 1.28 gallons per flush. Mostly all old models still use 1.6 gallons per flush. This equates to 6 gallons used per day on flushing the toilet.

Bathing

Even those that are claiming they only shower for 5 minutes are in for a surprise. Every minute that you shower uses 7 to 10 gallons of water. That means a 5 minutes shower uses, at best, 35 gallons and, at worst, 50 gallons. Factor in the fact that most people usually take much longer than 5 minutes and the 100 gallon figure starts to seem less unreasonable.

400,000,000

How we user our water. source: http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/pubs/indoor.html

By now you’ve probably done the math. Every day Californians are consuming about 400 million gallons of water. Every. single. day. But residential consumption is only a small part of the puzzle.

80%

Ironically, the number one source of water consumption in our state is the least talked about source: farming. That’s right. Each day 80% of the water in California is used to orchestrate California’s massive agricultural sector. With only 20% of water consumption coming from the same people that are dumping water on the heads, the impact of this challenge is quickly starting to diminish. However, the next number truly steals the show:

5 Million

As of Monday, August 18th, there have been approximately 1.2 million Ice Bucket Challenge videos posted to Facebook. Assuming a bucket holds 4 gallons of water, 5 million gallons of water have been “wasted” thus far. This water dumping trend started about 10 days ago. In the same amount of time, Californian residents have consumed 4 billion gallons of water. This means that the wasteful and drought causing challenge has contributed to residential water usage by 0.00000000125% and overall California water usage by 0.00000000025% (9 zeros, count em’) in merely the past 10 days. Imagine how much smaller the numbers would be if I calculated them over the course of the entire year.

But wait; I forgot to mention that not every person that did the challenge is from California in the first place. If the entire state of California did the challenge tomorrow, the total water usage would be 200 million gallons. This is no small amount, but it still only represents 0.001% of the water that we consume in an entire year. Basically, what I am trying to get at is that this challenge is not contributing much to the drought.

“But Rohan!” you say, “Even if very little water is being wasted, we should not promote water waste at all!”

I agree; but I disagree. I believe that we should evaluate actions using cost-benefit analysis. Yes, it is unfortunate that there is a mass promotion of wasting water, but have we completely forgotten why this is happening? This movement has given unprecedented awareness, support, and resources to ALS research. I won’t get into all of the debates involving #hashtagactivism and whether or not ALS is the most pressing disease at the moment. However, I think that 0.0000000000035% of our water consumption on the year is a small price to pay for all the good that this awareness and these donations have the potential to bring.

In Conclusion

I hope that you gained some insight into the current situation and will provide a more informed criticism the next time you cringe seeing someone dump water on their heads. I wrote this because I was honestly getting tired of the hype surrounding the drought and this challenge. If you would like to read up on the REAL reasons that we are in a drought, look into this thing called global warming.

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