2007 was a really rough year in NC. We experienced unprecedented drought conditions. I can never remember which is actually worse - Severe Drought or Extreme Drought - so I think I'll just refer to the situation as Uber Drought. Anyway, throughout the summer many municipalities started setting water restrictions - only water your lawns every other day, only wash your cars once a month, etc.. One of the best indicators of the severity (uberness) of the drought was that it simply did not rain from the end of September until the day after Christmas. Really. Three straight months, no rain.
In some ways, we were fortunate at that time. We were living in a duplex which happened to be on a private well. So, city/county restrictions did not apply to us because we weren't on their water systems. On the other hand, we were also living on a much more limited supply of water because we weren't on the city system. While we never watered the lawn (we were renting, our landlord handled all that) and we rarely washed our car, we still had normal needs for water.
We started being stringent with our conservation. We bought big packs of paper plates and cups and those aluminum baking pans at Sam's Club. (We still used regular silverware - I can't cut anything with plastic knives, they just don't work!) We bought gallon jugs of drinking water at the grocery store - I would microwave a mugful to make tea in the mornings. I got rather creative about washing what dishes we did use - I would fill the tea kettle and boil it, then pour that into the sink with the dishes, repeating as many times as need to cover the dishes. We had installed a water-conserving shower-head when we moved in, so we actually started using it properly - cutting the water off while lathering and only turning it on again to wet or rinse. We started taking our laundry to the laundromat (we even bought extra undies so we could go longer between trips).
Despite all those efforts, we still tapped the well in early December 2007. For a while thereafter, sediment was visible in the water. I can't begin to tell you how happy we were to see rain as the year ended.
Water was one of the reasons that we moved last summer, actually. While North Carolina is no longer in a state of Uber Drought, it is still nice to be on city water and not have to worry about tapping a well if things get bad again. Nonetheless, I've held onto several of the habits I got into during our extreme conservation mode. I think they're good ideas as far as being environmentally aware. OK, I have a dishwasher now, so I don't have to boil water in the tea kettle anymore, and I do tend to let the water run while I am showering again (but I take lots faster showers now than I used to!), but I am still trying to be water-conscious.
This is where H1N1 comes into play. Ever since the drought, I wash my hands by getting them quickly wet, then turning the water off while I lather, then back on again for a quick rinse. And I use cold water. Well, the best way to protect yourself against a possible pandemic is to wash your hands, for 30 seconds, in hot water (which you have to run for at least 30 seconds beforehand to get it hot enough in the first place). So, what do we do? Protect ourselves or the Earth?
I vote for Earth. Just start packing a lot of hand-sanitizer and get your flu shots!