Could you survive 24 hours of living in water poverty? Take DIGDEEP’s 4Liters Challenge to find out.
With the drought crisis in California, reducing water usage has become a top priority for most. George McGraw is the Founder and Executive Director of DIGDEEP, a one-of-a-kind, human rights non-profit which seeks to make clean water more available and more sustainable in every community.
DIGDEEP helps developing communities to build and manage their own water utilities. The non-profit also teaches young Americans to use their own resources via educational programs, like the 4Liters Challenge, that aim to conserve water.
The challenge requires participants to live for one day in water poverty. For 24 hours, he/she is to use just four liters of water for everything.
Through sharing photos of the challenge via social media, the group hopes to raise funds for water projects, such as building wells. For every 24 hours on #4liters, you earn the right to challenge four friends to join you or to donate $40. To keep track of your experience, log on to 4liters.org and connect your social media accounts.
For those who choose to donate, 100 percent of every dollar you raise or donate is sent to a water project in the United States as well as abroad. When the 24 hours are completed, you’ll receive a full report.
Below is an interview with McGraw.
Living Out Loud – Los Angeles: What’s the most effective and efficient way to conserve water? It seems tough.
George McGraw: It’s not so tough if you know where to start. Most people have no idea how much water they even use in a day; they take it completely for granted. So spend a day documenting how much water you use: every time you run the faucet, start the washing machine, flush the toilet. Conserving water is easy, it’s just a series of simple, painless steps that are usually free. But until we understand why water matters to us – and how much we’re already using – ‘conserving water’ will probably seem pretty vague and complicated.
LOL-LA: Aside from the obvious, what’s your take on California’s current drought?
GM: This drought is the worst in history (I guess that’s the obvious part), but I think we’ve been focusing too heavily on the negative. I hear many of my friends saying, “Man this drought is huge and complicated. It’s too big for me to deal with. Someone else will figure it out.” They kind of shut down.
Instead, the drought should be a rallying point! It should inspire us to test crazy new ideas, to forge new partnerships and build stronger communities. Right now I’m working on an ‘anti-pool party’ with some friends at Absolut and the Mayor’s Office. I think the drought is an awesome excuse to throw a party – to celebrate our water and the people that protect it. Water is what makes L.A. great. We just need to learn to love it.
LOL-LA: So tell us about the 4Liters Challenge.
GM: Two years ago one of our board members called me to quit. He felt disconnected from the work … nearly a billion people without clean water, and he’d never met a single one of them. That got me thinking: Americans can’t empathize with people that don’t have clean water, because we use so much of it. Why not give people a taste of water poverty without the long trip to Africa?
So every October we challenge young Americans to live on just four liters of water for a day. We get community groups, companies and celebrities involved. It’s an awesome, eye-opening party, and it all happens online.
LOL-LA: How much water are we normally using in a day?
GM: The average American uses over 400 liters (105 gallons) of water at home every day. That’s the highest rate in the world. Like I said, most of us don’t even know what we use that water for.
LOL-LA: So for 24 hours you want someone to go from 400 liters of water to just four?
GM: It seems intense, I know. That’s about a gallon for everything, and you have to drink most of it to stay hydrated. But here’s a secret: It’s totally doable for 24 hours.
Basically you’re faced with the same question hundreds of millions of other people ask every day: What can I cook, clean, eat – with this much water? After taking the 4Liters Challenge you’ll want to conserve water like never before, because you’ll realize how important water is to you. We ask people to capture their weird, difficult, insightful moments as short videos. It’s so inspiring to watch.
LOL-LA: This is year three for the 4Liters Challenge. What’s your favorite thing someone has shared so far?
GM: It’s a tie. An Aussie YouTuber named Kirsty Spraggon posted this ridiculous video of her licking a yogurt bowl clean last year. She really gets in there, and there’s yogurt and slurping, and then she just puts the bowl back in the cabinet. It’s nasty and awesome.
But my favorite is probably this video of a kid in a bathtub. He did the 4Liters Challenge, and his mom asks, “Did you miss your bath? Do you know that lots of little kids can’t take baths because they don’t have clean water?” His face falls, he moans a little, and you can see the sympathy written all over him. Lesson learned.
LOL-LA: It appears as if you’re involved with quite a lot of stuff. How do you balance all of it?
GM: Haha. I abandoned the idea of work/life balance a long time ago. Now I’m all about work/life integration. When you love your job as much as I do, you want it to invade every part of your life… relationships, hobbies, weekend plans. Integration gives me more time, and I never have to switch modes. Also, there’s less small talk. Everyone around me knows exactly what I’m up to and why I’m doing it.
LOL-LA: Tell us about DIGDEEP. What is it like to run a start-up charity?
GM: Well, DIGDEEP isn’t really a charity – we’re a human rights organization. We’re not a charity because we believe that when it comes to water there aren’t ‘donors’ and ‘recipients,’ there are only people. Every person has the right to clean water and the duty to protect it.
We have two main jobs at DIGDEEP. In places without clean water we build community-led water projects that improve human rights standards like health, education and gender equity. We partner with really diverse communities for that work, some of them right here in the U.S. (Water poverty isn’t as far away as most people think.). Then, in places with clean water, we develop events, educational resources and digital campaigns (like 4Liters) that help those communities understand and care for their water.
We’re very much a millennial start up – lean, transparent and digital. No two days are ever the same.
LOL-LA: What advice do you have for those out there who don’t care about conserving water?
GM: You would care more if you realized how much it actually matters to you. Start there.
LOL-LA: Anything else to add?
GM: I want everyone to try my latest invention: the Beyoncé shower. Get a playlist of Beyoncé songs together (everyone loves Queen Bey, whether they admit it or not). Play a song every time you step into the shower. Dance your ass off, and when it’s over get out.
For more information and to sign up for the 4Liters Challenge, visit 4liters.org.