How much water has been used in the Ice Bucket Challenge?

From LeBron James to Justin Timberlake to Oprah Winfrey, watch 17 celebrities dump icy water over their heads to raise awareness and money for the ALS Association. (Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)

The Ice Bucket Challenge – the charitable cause to raise money for ALS – is the current rage chilling American spines.  The challenge offers participants two choices: 1) Donate $100 to help fight Lou Gehrig’s disease or 2) Dump a bucket of cold ice water over their heads.  Many participants do both.

According to the New York Times, more than 1.2 million videos of people dumping water on their head have been posted to Facebook.  I decided to calculate how much water has been consumed in the process.


Aug 11, 2014; BBaltimore Orioles outfielder (rear) pours a bucket of ice water on third baseman Manny Machado (seated) as part of the ALS ice bucket challenge prior to a game against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

If an average bucket contains 4 gallons of water, about 5 million gallons of water have dunked heads from coast to coast.  That’s the equivalent of about 120,000 baths or, in weather terms, over half an inch of rain falling on a 300 acre slab of land.  Think of a summer downpour dousing the National Mall, or for west-coasters, Disneyland.

(I used the U.S. Geological Survey’s handy “How much water falls during a storm?” to conduct this calculation).

Related reading:

How ‘Ice Bucket’ became a fundraising juggernaut

‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ Has Raised Millions for ALS Association

A few (impolite) questions about the ice bucket challenge

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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