Water conservation – harder than it sounds

Denver Water, the county and city of Denver’s water utility, has an extensive water conservation campaign. This is because, like many areas around the nation, Denver’s population is growing but it’s water sources aren’t.

Benjamin and I have been doing our part for a while now. Last year we bought a high efficiency washer and dryer when we moved into the new house. Living in a townhouse we don’t have much of a yard (no grass at all) but we do have some raised beds for flowers and vegetables. The previous owners installed a time-controlled watering system for those beds which we use during the summer. Our house was built in 2005 so it has low-flow toilets. We run the dishwasher only when full.

The last bastion of water wastage in our house is the shower. We use between 2000 and 3000 gallons of water a month and I believe around 1000 of that is from our shower usage. Benjamin likes to take longer showers and while he’s flexed on just about every other aspect of my environmentalist agenda, taking shorter showers is just isn’t in the cards. After some cajoling/sweet talking/bribing I was able to talk him into letting me replace our 2.5 gal/min shower head with a 1.5 gal/min shower head. He wasn’t happy about it but I promised him that I would never again bring up his longer-than-I-think-are-necessary showers if he’d let me install it.

As a bonus the new shower head has a pause feature allowing for Navy showers. No, when the button is pushed your shower stall does not fill with hot navy sailors — instead the flow of water either stops or the flow is significantly reduced. According to the package the pause button was suppose to stop all water flow but in reality it just reduces it down to a mere dribble.

My back-of-the-envelope calculations says that without the use of the pause button the new shower head is conserving around 390 gallons of water a month (estimated 13 minutes of shower for both people per day and changing from 2.5 to 1.5 gal/min flow) — and that’s a pretty conservative estimate. With my use of the pause button we probably shave another 45 gallons/month beyond that for a total savings of 435 — or about 45% savings total.

There was an interesting article last month in the WSJ that talks about shower water conservation and the resistance to it.