Conserving Water Aboard Convivia

March 6, 2011

Conserving water has been one of our biggest worries lately. With only 110 gallons of water tankage (plus whatever we can fit in cans on deck), we have a good reason to be concerned.

The average Pacific crossing for a boat of our size is ~21 days. Conservative water consumption for 4 people (adults) is 2 gallons per day per person (or 8 gal/day total). We have been using about 17.5 gallons/day since we moved aboard. At that rate we would have just a little more than 6 days worth of water (sans Jerry Cans).

Besides the obvious consideration of running out of water in the middle of the Pacific, it is important to understand how one goes about obtaining potable water in the South Pacific (and the Sea of Cortez) if one doesn’t have a water maker. From what we have gathered the process is something like this:

  1. Take two 5 gal Jerry Cans (if you have two people)
  2. Row them to shore
  3. Walk (sometimes up sizable hills)  to the spring, reservoir, cistern, etc where the locals get their water
  4. Get your 10 gallons of water
  5. Walk that 40 lbs (each) back to the dingy
  6. Row (or motor I guess) that extra 80 lbs back to your boat
  7. Fill your water tanks
  8. Repeat 10 times (or 21 if you’re on your own)

Needless to say, I’m not keen on wasting water. That said we generate some dishes around here. LOTS of dishes. Vick reports (without hyperbole) that some days she does dishes all day. This uses a lot of water here in the marina where we can fill up easily with a garden hose. Once we’re out (in cleaner water) we can use sea water for washing, and rinse with fresh. That will cut down our fresh water usage quite a bit, but won’t solve the problem entirely. Something serious needed to be done about this…

My solution is two part. First I got a smaller pump. This pump produces about half as much pressure, at half the current (amperage), and half as many gallons per minute as the previous one. What’s better it makes practically no noise. It does take about a minute to fill a cup of water, but we can deal.

The second part was to put Instant-Off nozzles on all of our faucets. These little gems were recommended to me by KC (a dock friend) and have been a godsend in more ways than one.  The Instant-Off is a faucet attachment that has a wand dangling down. Tapping the wand (with the back of your hand, thumb, or palm) opens the faucet. This allows us to set the mix on all the faucets and then just tap to activate. In the case of the kids head (which is a pullman basin)  there is an additional drip prevention benefit. In the case of the galley faucet it means we don’t have to turn the water on and off for every rinse. This efficiency alone probably provides 75% of our total water conservation for this week.

The Results:

This week we filled up two of our three tanks (70 gallons) on Monday and ran out on Sunday. That amounts to about 11.5 gallons per day. We are still dialing the new systems in, and I expect to get down to 8-10 gallons/day before we leave.  That will give us about 13 days before we add Jerry Cans and salt water washing into the equation.  I will be writing more about this as we refine our methods and explore catchment systems to collect rain water.



  1. Comment by boatbaby

    boatbaby March 6, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Awesome post!
    Let me add… when Doug & I went cruising the first time we did not have a watermaker (or a windlass!) — and we were never so fit and healthy in our lives! We both joke that we’ll work off our collective baby fat during cruising by disconnecting the windlass and going back to jerry jugging water.
    Also consider hand santizer in place of hand washing. Hospitals do it, why can’t we?
    Ask Cid about the make-it-yourself watermaker link. I can’t find it, but I know she knows. And look on Totem’s blog for a post about water issues on passage.
    Finally – if Vic if doing dishes all day someone is slipping in the male partner department, ahem.

    • Comment by Tucker Bradford

      Tucker Bradford March 6, 2011 at 4:24 pm

      I’ve heard you can drink your pee up to 4 times. I can’t imagine how desperate I would have to be to have that last cup. YyyyyyyyUCK!

  2. Comment by Cidnie

    Cidnie March 6, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Those faucets look snazzy. You can also use spray bottles to wash your dishes. Seriously, I did it will driving in an RV with limited water for a month.
    And if it all goes awry- you’ll have to drink your pee!

    • Comment by Tucker Bradford

      Tucker Bradford March 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm

      Hey you and Cindy can comment now! WHoot!!

  3. Comment by Victoria Bradford

    Victoria Bradford March 6, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Tucker does a good deal of dishes when he’s home. It’s just that the kids eat 1000 times during the day while he’s at work (and that’s when I bake so there’s extra from that). I’ve got to say that doing dishes is sometimes easier than doing bedtime though. When we first lived together having a dishwasher was VERY important to the survival of our relationship but we’ve worked it out since then!
    I’m kind of excited to have the arms that come with being a jug person.

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