National News

ASU students live alone in desert for a month, experience water scarcity

Posted August 7

— Eight Arizona State University students spent 30 days in the Mojave desert with temperatures in the triple digits. The objective was to experience a world in the future, when water is scarce.

In Dry Lab 2023, participants lived on four gallons of water a day.

"We collected gray water, so water used for washing the clothes or dishes, and that was used for flushing the toilet," said ASU School of Sustainability professor Marco Janssen. He said they stayed in an abandoned motel, stuck to a vegan diet, and had no air conditioning.

"We just rested and were more active in early mornings and late evenings," Janssen said.

Temperatures reached 110 degrees.

"We had some fans, but when it came 110 [degrees], it was a big challenge," he said.

One person got irritable bowel syndrome, and another had heat stroke. But a physician was on hand.

"One of my main concerns was the safety of the students, so that's why there was always faculty there," Janssen said.

He said the point was to envision a possible future in which water is not so readily available.

In that, he said, the participants excelled.

"They used less than four gallons a day," he said. "They saved up a lot of water. We could waste if we would have wanted."

And that water was for everything-- drinking, cooking and hygiene.

Janssen said the hardest part was the lack of internet.

"People had to interact with each other, instead of with their friends electronically," he said.

With class credit and a small stipend in hand, believe it or not, Janssen said, the students didn't want to leave.

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