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Families Compete to Save The Most in the "We're for Water" Contest

Photo credit: EPA

Compared to the overabundance of reality TV and game shows these days, the Johnson vs. Abbott family competition seemed pretty tame. But the message it conveyed was still big: saving water can be simple and affordable.

Chatham Township residents Kenneth and Katherine Abbott, and their children, Joanie 16, Sarah, 11, and Meredith, 4, competed against Chris Johnson, Ann Cavuoti-Johnson and their children Mariana, 18, Courtney, 16, and Carolyn, 12, to see which family could conserve the most water.

The contest was part of the EPA's "We're For Water " program, a campaign to encourage Americans to make simple choices that save water. The program, in collaboration with its partner, American Water, aimed to spread the word about saving water by traveling cross-country, stopping at national landmarks and educating consumers about WaterSense labeled products. The trip started in Los Angeles and concluded in New York City.

During the week of the competition, both families were encouraged to reduce their water consumption through three steps: “check, twist and replace.” At the end of the week, each families' water usage was compared to their consumption from a week earlier in the summer.

The Johnson family saved water by putting a bucket in the shower to collect the initial cold water, which then was used to water plants. Other steps included using their dehumidifier water to water plants, and soaping up dishes first before rinsing.

The Abbott family fixed a leaky outdoor faucet, replaced a flush valve in an older toilet, replaced faucet aerators, and turned off their irrigation for the week.

Both families also made simple changes to their normal, everyday behaviors – turning off the water while brushing their teeth and shampooing, and taking shorter showers.

The contest concluded at the end of the week in an outdoor, head to head battle. At the finale, Chris Johnson and Ken Abbott competed to see who could use the least amount of water while shaving – they tied, each using only 1/3 a cup of water.

"We were careful not to cut ourselves. Nobody was hurt — no people and no animals," Chris Johnson said, laughing.

Sporting their swimsuits, Mariana Johnson and Sarah Abbott competed to see who could wash their hair the most times in three minutes, under a WaterSense showerhead. Despite getting soap in her eye, Mariana came away the winner, with 5 wash cycles.

"I thought it was really fun," Johnson said. "It just shows that you have to be conscious of (water) in everything you do."

The families were also quizzed on water conservation trivia – Kathy Abbott won the closest estimate on how many gallons of water an average family would save per year by switching from an old toilet to a WaterSense labeled toilet. The correct answer: 16,500 gallons.

In the end, the Johnson family emerged the winners, cutting their water use by 40 percent, compared to the Abbott's 25 percent.

For their participation in the event, each family was presented with a $250 gift certificate to Lowe’s. Chatham Township Environmental Commissioner Pat Collington gave each family a certificate of appreciation from the commission.

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