Imagine A Day Without Water With Our Resident Vandweller

October 23, 2019

In celebration of Imagine A Day Without Water, we profiled Zack – a man who lives every day with hardly any water.

Zack lives in a van. While Zack’s van is not down by the river, his lifestyle provides a great lesson on water conservation and the impact of living minimally. Zack became a vandweller in July 2019 as a way to “live my life according to my own values.”

In the transition of downsizing from a spacious, air-conditioned suburban home, Zack was forced to make some big decisions: Which of his possessions were absolutely necessary for happiness and survival? How much could he stuff into his tiny new digs? Painfully, the couch and flat-screen TV had to go, along with a lot of other belongings that seemed so important at the time. Zack moved into his van with the bare essentials and a new mission to live simply. He quickly realized that – although he was now in a much tighter space physically – he was in a much more comfortable place philosophically.

Inside look at a/c unit
One of Zack’s biggest challenges during summer is cooling his van. He installed an energy-efficient air conditioning unit to keep temperatures in check.

“How I live my life affects everything else around me. So, if I over-consume, if I eat too much for instance, that has an effect on the planet in one way or another.”

Zack uses less water than he ever imagined.

The average person in metro Phoenix uses on average 120 gallons of water per day. Zack only uses about 121 gallons per month in total and has many ways in which he keeps his water usage down. Zack has a six-gallon container for cooking and cleaning dishes and he rarely uses all six gallons per month. His remaining water is used for showers, laundry, and other daily needs. He also captures the “gray” used water from cleaning dishes and pours it outside, further extending the life of the water for the betterment of the desert flora.

Incredibly, this six-gallon water container is all Zack needs every month to cook and clean dishes. He pours the gray water out to feed the desert.

“Out here in the desert, water isn’t something that should be abused or taken advantage of. It should be treated as something that’s very sacred. When I use water here in the van, I’m really, really cautious. If I’m not using every drop, I will shut that spigot off right away.”

Potty talk with Zack. In the name of science, we had to ask the question.

Where does Zack go to the bathroom? In addition to his water jug specifically for cooking and cleaning, Zack purchased a small, specialty portable toilet that fits under his bed in the van. He empties the toilet at a nearby black water dumping station. His monthly water use? About five gallons. Not bad considering the average home toilet – even low-water usage toilets – flush away about two gallons of water per turn of the handle. All said and done, Zack uses an incredibly low amount of water at home.

Zack’s high-tech portable toilet uses five gallons of water, special sealed compartments, and a special gauge to show when it needs emptying.

“Yeah, so I can’t tell you how much water exactly I use for showers, but for everything else, like washing hands, dishes, like I said, it’s about five, maybe six gallons a month.”

Okay, so what about showers and laundry?

Good news: Zack has a solar-heated shower system perfect for the outdoors. Better news: He doesn’t use it yet because his van is parked in a friend’s driveway and he doesn’t want to horrify neighbors. Until he moves completely off the grid, Zack currently showers at the building of his employment or at the gym. He showers a few days a week as necessary to maintain his fresh-smelling and squeaky-clean professional appearance. His showers are quick and efficient, and he uses much less water per week than the average person. For laundry, Zack hits the local laundromat. Since he doesn’t have much closet space, he doesn’t have many clothes to clean, another water-saving byproduct of living minimally. Zack is a well-maintained and manicured individual who saves more water and saves more money. He’s happier for it and so is our water supply.

Wood paneling
Wood paneling gives the interior a homey feel. Zach applied spray-on insulation behind the paneling to keep the van cozy and energy-efficient.

We’re not asking you to be exactly like Zack, just a little more like Zack.

We understand Zack’s lifestyle is a little extreme (maybe a lot extreme). In honor of Imagine A Day Without Water, Zack is a great reminder about our desert’s greatest natural resource – how precious water is and how little we need to live just as well.

Just by being a little more water conscious, we can save thousands of gallons a year individually. Everything from fixing leaks to changing sprinkler frequencies every season to turning the water off while brushing our teeth – there are so many small tips we can incorporate into our daily lives that go a long way to conserving water. As Zack can attest, every drop is important.

Zack in his van
Zack living the good life – conserving water, saving money, giving more than he takes, and making the rest of us feel like total slugs.

If you’re curious about more water-saving tips, we have many. Check them out here.