The Abbotts were crowned kings of the Environmental Protection Agency's water conservation contest between two Chatham Township families Monday.
As part of the EPA's "We're for Water" cross-country campaign, the Abbotts and Johnsons were picked to participate in a contest to see which could conserve the most water over the course of a week. It ended Monday with a series of mini-competitions between the two families of five.
Each family's water usage was recorded beginning on July 24 and was compared to a previous week over the summer during which the families were not competing (they were not told which random week was being measured). The Abbotts managed to use 25 percent of their previous total—they saved 610 gallons—while the Johnsons used 40 percent and saved 400 gallons.
"We were surprised by the percentage that we saved because we do try to save water normally," said Chris Johnson. "Shorter showers definitely helped. We did a couple of other things and some friends gave us some suggestions."
The Abbotts' winning strategy was somewhat similar.
"We fixed the leaks outside," said Kathy Abbott. "We installed a new flushing device in our toilet, we did try to shower shorter and we turned off the irrigation."
During Monday's final ceremonies at the Abbott home, each family was given a $250 gift certificate to Lowe's, courtesy of the EPA. In addition, the Johnsons and the Abbotts were both given certificates of appreciation by Chatham Township.
First, the EPA placed two toilets on a table and had Ann Cavuoti-Johnson and Abbott pour dye in the tank to test if their was a leak. The mothers were then asked to fix the leak.
After that, each family was quizzed about how many gallons per year a WaterSense toilet could save. The Abbott's response of 16,775 gallons won—it was closest to 16,500 gallons, which was the correct answer.
"I thought I was good at saving water, but we were able to save even more water," said Cavuoti-Johnson.
The next challenge was how many times a family member could shampoo their hair in five minutes. Competing on a makeshift shower on the Abbotts' front lawn, Sarah Abbott, 11, rinsed and repeated four times while Mariana Johnson, 18, bested that with a score of five.
"We didn't practice," said Kathy Abbott, before joking that "it looks like the Johnsons practiced with the hair washing."
The two fathers then faced one another in a shaving contest—the winner was the one who used the least amount of water. Time was not a factor, and the EPA set up two sinks with measuring cups under the drain to judge the competition. This one ended in a draw, as Chris Johnson and Ken Abbott each used just one-third of a cup of water to crop their facial hair.
And with that, the winner was announced and the contest was over. But the competition wasn't all that mattered to the families.
"(The best part was) teaching my children that saving water is important," Kathy Abbott said.