Could You Live on Just 4 Liters of Water a Day?

Written by Derek Markham

Move over, Ice Bucket Challenge. Experience the clean water crisis firsthand, and help alleviate water poverty for some of the 2.5 billion people without access to clean water, with the 4Liters challenge.

The average American uses about 400 liters of water per day at home, even in regions where drought and water scarcity are fast becoming the norm. That figure is well above what’s considered to be the minimum for human needs — about 50 liters per day — and yet water is still so cheap and accessible in most municipalities that it’s easy to use (and waste) way more than we need.

And that 400 liters of water doesn’t even seem like all that much (unless you’re a water conservation rockstar) until you contrast it with the average Haitian, who has to get by on just a tiny fraction of that — four liters — for all of their daily needs. Billions of other people on the planet experience hardships and scarcity related to water and sanitation every single day, and this water poverty takes a huge toll on their lives.

Last year, to help raise awareness of the water poverty issue, and to raise money to build new clean water projects in the developing world, the LA-based human rights nonprofit DIGDEEP launched their first 4Liters Challenge, which asked people to live on just four liters of water for 24 hours. That October, the 602 participants raised a combined $17,400 to defend the human right to clean water through sustainable water projects, water access advocacy and educational projects.

This year’s 4Liters Challenge begins on October 6 and runs for the entire month, with participants choosing to use just four liters of water per day, either for a single day or multiple days, and to document the experience and share it with their social networks (using the hashtag #4Liters). In addition to living in virtual water poverty for a day, participants will also try to raise at least $40 for the project from their friends and networks, and then to challenge at least four other people to take the 4Liters Challenge (who can avoid the Challenge by donating $40 instead).

Of course, using just four liters of water per day for drinking, cooking and washing is not nearly as sexy, at least by internet standards, as dumping a bucket of ice water on your head is, so raising massive amounts of money for clean water projects with it might be a bit trickier than it was for the recent ALS campaign. And because most of us may live our entire lives without ever knowing anyone that lives in water poverty, this cause is a bit harder to make personal, unless you bring it right home and take the challenge yourself.

The 4Liters Challenge is also an excellent opportunity for teachers to talk about water, poverty and human rights, and to get kids engaged in learning firsthand what water poverty is like. The 4Liters website is a great resource, and a free multidisciplinary curriculum, including a detailed teacher’s guide, is available for educators.

Find out more, or sign up for this year’s Challenge, at 4Liters.

This post originally appeared on TreeHugger.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Erin H.
Erin H3 years ago

Interesting article, thank you

David W.
David W3 years ago


Lisa D.
Lisa D3 years ago

yes.. I think I could.. I think I will try this out

Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Nope ... don't think I could do it.

Jane R.
Jane R3 years ago

I use as little water as I can on a daily basis. We need to conserve water for our children an their children and all who come after us.
One way to conserve is o do as they tell you on a cruise ship, when you wash your hands, wet them, turn the water off, soap your hands, then turn the water back onto rinse them. Do not leave the water run the whole time you are soaping your hands, it waists water.
When brushing your teeth, turn the water off until you need it to rinse your mouth..

pam w.
pam w3 years ago

It may come down to worse than this! Keep on breeding, people....all those ''precious lives''.....unfortunately, millions will die of thirst and hunger before populations actually stabilize.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 years ago

This bucket challenge... Come on, there are better ways to help the causes you care about!

M Quann
M Q3 years ago

I know I couldn't do this challenge, but I do conserve water ever way I can.

jan l.
jan l3 years ago

i doubt it... i take over 59 pills a day due to a spinal cord disability and movement disorder. i'd love to be able to not take the pills, but i must in order to help my dear mom and myself get about. We conserve where we can [layer clothing instead of getting whomped with a $300 heating bill - although the temp for heating is in the high 60s, and the a/c for summer is set at 77 degrees.

JL A3 years ago

a practice that should prove illuminating for many and lead to better water policies and practices when more have this level of understanding