Ocean College: Water is precious when you′re at sea | Global Ideas | DW | 03.01.2018
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Ocean College

Ocean College: Water is precious when you're at sea

As the sea-faring students of Ocean College crossed the Atlantic our author Lisa realized what a precious resource water can be - especially when there is no land in sight.

Before embarking on this sailing trip, I would have never imagined that, surrounded by water, the raw material we have the least of would be exactly that — water.

We all need water to survive, and normally, when we need it, all we have to do is go to the next sink, turn the tap and out it comes.

On board our sailboat, it's a bit different. Instead of a pipe that provides everybody with water, we get our drinking water through a water-maker that runs from 7am until 8.30pm and produces about 120 liters per hour. It takes the water from the ocean and transforms it into drinkable form.

Every 15 minutes, someone from our "working watch" needs to climb down the steep stairs into the engine room to make sure there aren't any leaks and that the water pressure isn't too high or low.

When the sun is shining and we are travelling on engine power, it gets so hot down there that you can't touch anything without feeling like your hands are getting burned. So, soon it became one of the most annoying tasks during the watch (Luckily I'm on the night watch now, so I don't have to deal with it anymore).   

Having a limited source of water is new for most of us and we all needed to change our behaviour. Unfortunately, there have already been a few times when we managed to use up all of the available water to the last drop and every time that happens, we realise how irresponsible we have been.

Not even putting up a once-every-three-day shower schedule worked and after we managed to empty the tank during the crossing of the Atlantic, we were only allowed to shower with salt water on deck. When Martin, our captain, told us that there was no water left, many of us got scared.  

What about drinking water? Do we have water for the kitchen? For cleaning the ship? For washing our laundry? 

Now we are trying to figure out how so much water was used and what we can do to use less. The problem probably lies in washing our hands for too long and filling nearly the entire sink with water to do the dishes.

But I think that there is also a positive aspect to this experience: we are learning to be more conscious of just how precious this liquid is.

Lisa is one of the student taking part in the Ocean College voyage across the Atlantic and back.