Four minute shower

I was taking a shower, thinking about saving water, and shower timers, and the idea that a four-minute shower is the solution to the problem of wasting water.  And how this can only make sense when a five-minute shower and a four-minute shower are the only possible options.  This solution makes no sense at all if any other factors are taken into account.  Factors like the possibility of taking a three-minute shower, or a bath, or not showering at all, or flushing the toilet, or collecting rainwater, or using shower water on the garden, or using shower water to flush the toilet. Or mining industries that use billions of times the amount of water any one person could ever use at home.  Billions of times the amount that all the people in the world could ever use at home.  If everyone in the world cut back showering time, the amount of water being wasted would hardly change. In a world where irrigators deliberately waste water so as to use their whole allocation, and not lose their allocation for next year, a concern about showering time seems misplaced.

Then there’s all the larger factors: the infrastructure required to make showering possible. The dams, pipes, pumps, sewers, chemical treatment, electricity, mining and pollution that showering could never happen without.  Damming a river destroys whole natural communities, living beings both upstream and downstream, and impacts on the livelihoods of everyone who depends on the river.  Reducing showering time has no effect on any of this.

Most of our water use happens not in the shower, but as embodied water – the water used to produce the things we buy.  A 200mL glass of milk requires 200L of water to produce, a hamburger 2400L, an egg 135L, an A4 sheet of paper 10L.  How much water in a round of golf?

You could install a low-flow showerhead, which is claimed to save 16 000 litres of water a year.  This happens to be the same amount of water it takes to produce one kilogram of beef.  The showerhead advocates don’t say how much water it takes to produce the showerhead.

Are our cultural beliefs around showering and access to unlimited water more important than the lives of those who depend on the rivers we are stealing from?  How long can we sustain our beliefs before either these others fight back, or we disrupt natural processes to the extent that this water is no longer available?  I was going to include “until we poison our water supply so badly that its no longer safe to shower in it” but then realised this is already the case.  Here is South Australia our water supply contains pesticides at well above the safe level recommended by World Health Organisation, but this doesn’t make news.  I’m literally being showered in toxic chemicals.

Even if none of these factors are taken into account, a four-minute shower, rather than being the solution to water waste, is still wasting four-fifths as much water as a five-minute shower.  So for this solution to make sense, you’d need to not only ignore all other factors, you’d need to first make these assumptions:

  1. showering every day is essential for everyone
  2. showering requires at least four minutes
  3. showering is always done using mains water
  4. shower water must go into the sewer
  5. stealing water from other watersheds is a human right
  6. polluting water and dumping it in the water supply of others is essential
  7. none of these assumptions can be acknowledged or challenged.

I thought all this through while I was in the shower for somewhere between four and five minutes, which, if I was to make the above assumptions, would leave me somewhere between being the solution and the cause of the problem.

Waste water and energy! Install this completely unnecessary shower timer, which required more water and energy to manufacture than you could use in months of showering! Only $275!

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