Ice Bucket Challenge: Just saying

As a lover of science, mathematics, and basic well-rounded logical arguments, I find incompletely supported arguments extremely annoying!

Lately there have been a lot of people complaining about how the Ice Bucket Challenge is the stupidest thing ever. One of the most popular arguments that has gone undisputed in my circle of friends is that the Ice Bucket Challenge is wastage of water while people are dying of thirst in Africa. The inhumane living conditions in some parts of the world are no joke. However, the argument is, kind of, invalid.

Consider this, the flow rate in shower heads in the US are mandated to stay below 2.5 gallons per minute. This is roughly 9.5 litres per minute. Most of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos I have seen involved buckets which were sized somewhere between 4-6 gallons (~14-23 litres).

Most people I know wait a good half-minute (to 2 minutes) in the shower before the water attains the optimal temperature. It is a luxury most of us have gotten used to. That amounts to the wastage of anywhere between 1.25-5 gallons (4.75-19 litres) of water. I am assuming people perpetuating this argument have R&D’ed, theorised and optimised their daily shower routine to the point that their water wastage is far below the water content of the median ALS Ice Bucket Challenge bucket.

I am certain that most people I know do not have water consumption habits that are optimized to an extent where their water wastage on even a weekly basis is below 5 or even 10 gallons (~19 or even 38 litres). I haven’t even accounted for the average toilet flush (1.6 gal. per flush or 6 litres per flush) or cooking habits, or the several other tertiary activities we go about on a daily basis that (inefficiently) consume water.

As for my Indian friends that have attacked the challenge, I have one word for you: Holi! You may not apply cold water to the burned area.



(Holi is an Indian festival that often involves people throwing color and water on each other. In some parts of India, like my hometown, it is virtually impossible to leave your house on the day of Holi and last 15 minutes without getting drenched.)

Now, getting to the water problems in Africa. Here is a map of Africa:


You may notice that most places in Africa that are suffering from water deficit in Africa have easier access to water from the Atlantic, Southern and Indian oceans, Mediterranean and Red seas and other lakes and rivers within the continent than to the water in Europe or North and South America. One of the primary concerns with water scarcity is not the lack of water. It is the lack of water fit for consumption. It is not economically feasible to transport water inter-continentally, or even to purify salt water. Reverse osmosis is expensive.

My point is this: There are going to be people who are going to hate. It is the mere nature of social dynamics. But please just think through the arguments you buy into before you perpetuate them. Besides, the social media (accidental) geniuses that made this viral have done an immense job for the ALS Association. I wonder how much it would have cost them to pay for advertising at a comparable scale.

It is, without doubt, one of the most successful pyramid schemes I have ever seen.


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