We don't have a dishwasher because we stopped short of putting in our planned kitchen island 7 years ago. We were tired of renovating and the accompanying drained bank accounts. Instead, we kept on washing dishes by hand as we had in the years before we were home owners and home renovators.
In the meantime, with all that time spent in the dishpan, I have been thinking. And then I did a little research.
I figured out how many gallons of liquid my dishpan holds without messy pouring of water:
Length in inches x width x height = X, then X/231 = volume in gallons
14" x 11" x 6" = 924" and 924/ 231 = 4 gallons
My dishpan was 3/4 full after washing that full dish-drainer-load, plus a pan on the stovetop (we use the stovetop like an overflow dishdrainer if no one is drying dishes) and the bag-dryer.
I figure I routinely use about 3 gallons of water total to wash a small dishwasher load of dishes. I've been around dishwashers enough to know their general capacity. In my research, I read that the average Energy Star dishwasher uses 4 gallons of water per cycle and the others use about 6 gallons (although Energy Star says it differently). And here is another article with food for thought.
The way I use so little water to handwash that many dishes is thus:
1. squirt dish soap in pan and run in an inch or less of hot water.
2. Wash a dirty something and turn the water on over the dishpan briefly, rinsing the soapy thing.
3. Place the clean wet thing in drying rack.
See, I capture the rinse water right in the dishpan and use it to build up my dishwater. One of the things I didn't see addressed in the articles is that if you ideally wait to run the dishwasher until it is full, then you might need to have more dishes than I do. I can wash a small load, and often do if I'm clearing the decks for a canning or baking project, with the same efficiency as a large load. I also re-use dishes for several projects rather than getting a clean item every time; for example, tonight during supper prep, I used the same glass measuring cup for milk for biscuits, cream for a pie, boiling water for the same pie, and tomatoes for a soup.
The hidden problem in my dishwashing scenario is that it takes a long time to get the hot water up to our kitchen faucet, so sometimes we run the water for a while to get hot. In the right mood, I capture this water in my houseplant watering can.
Actually, I'm not a militant water-saver. I started researching dishwashers vs. handwashing out of curiosity and it suits my personality to discover how little water I use in contrast to what the bigwigs think I use. Humph. I like the intricacies of kitchen life, that's all.