We Have A Problem: Shower Feedback Loop

Hackaday, we have a problem. Clean water is precious and we want to come up with some ideas to help conserve it. Today’s topic is water wasted while showering. Let’s kick around some ideas and prompt some new builds for The Hackaday Prize.

We’ve all done it; your mind wanders and before you know it you’ve been standing in the shower for far too long. How much water have you wasted? Who know’s, there’s no feedback loop in the shower. But we think adding a little bit of feedback is a fantastic avenue to help combat wasteful habits.

Color Changing Showerheads


What if the showerhead changed colors based on how much water had flowed through it? We’ve already seen consumer showerheads that have the LEDs inside of them, and flow meters are readily available. Start your shower off in the green, as you lather up the suds it moves through blue, purple, orange, red, and finally to flashing red. It doesn’t have to be annoying, but just enough to help quantify how much is pouring down the drain.

Shower Beats

We were big fans of the game SSX Tricky back in the day. The better you were at tricks, the better the music was. If you crashed hard, you’d be listening to nothing more than hi-hat and subdued bass. Apply this to shower time. What if that flow meter you installed on your shower head was connected to a shower radio? Start it off with the best music in the world and progress to the lamest as you run the reservoir dry (ymmv on these selections of course).

Now You Try

If you shave off 5 seconds from your shower it will have a tiny impact in your household. But imagine the aggregate of every household in the world doing so.

This is part of what the 2015 Hackaday Prize is all about. Get the idea machine rolling. Tell us your riff on the shower feedback loop in the comments below. Put up a new project on Hackaday.io, write down an idea, and tag it “2015HackadayPrize”. We’re on the lookout for the best seed ideas and will be giving away shirts and stickers to the ones that show real promise. We’ll be featuring some of these in future installments of “Hackaday, We Have Problem” and if we choose yours it’ll land you with some swag of your own.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

206 thoughts on “We Have A Problem: Shower Feedback Loop

  1. Considering I always turn the water on full blast- I would go with a timed version that changes color as the clock ticks down and flashes when you have 30 seconds remaining.

    1. Good idea! Despite what any naysayers spout (water pun) below, the facts are is that potable water is a precious resource no matter where you live on Earth. A good visualization is if the Earth was the size of a basketball, then all of the water on Earth would amount to the volume of a ping pong ball. So not as much water as you think. The ping pong ball is 97% water we can’t drink or grow food with, and only a small percentage of the remaining 3% is actually available for us to use and distribute carefully around the planet so we stay alive. Think the size of a BB pellet in relation to the basketball. This isn’t political, just the facts, and until we perfect clean energy desalination is a fools game, when using the natural systems and conserving water is the key.

      1. I live in a small town which has what was the largest above-ground reservoir in the world when it was built, and which is close enough to the largest freshwater lakes in the world that I, frankly, don’t care. It is backed by a very well-fed river system, and has wells to supplant that as well. There is enough water here that we willfully sell it to other communities instead of squander it for ourselves.

        The only inkling in my mind of water being particularly precious here was during a drought 27 years ago.

        The depth of the drought was such that on a very windy late-summer day, we went out to a relatively young, dense forest to watch the dead and dry trees fall. It was very spectacular, with a regular barrage of *crack* *crunch* *whomp* as the trees picked their final resting place.

        And yet even then the official word on conservation was “Hey, folks: We know your lawn is dying and you want to water it, but would you mind only doing that at night so we don’t lose so much to evaporation? K, thx.”

        This isn’t political, just the facts.

        (Also, facts: Are you referring to volume or surface area in your stated figures?)

        1. Volume of accessible water. I’m happy for you that you live near a reservoir, mazel tov. The fact that you cup runneth over doesn’t mean that potable water isn’t precious, maybe that our lives and many other animals lives depend on fresh water is what makes it precious. Think outside of yourself.

  2. The fact that consumer water use is the absolute very least of the water usage (agbiz and industry are magnitudes higher), worrying about an extra 15 minutes in the shower is like worrying about swimmers peeing in the ocean.

          1. Brian, it has been covered in a previous discussion, it is sort of pronounced “stish”
            Jake, I award you 10 Internet Points for your response, (it is all I can afford today)

        1. You must of spent too much time at HAD/Supplyframe meetings full of dirty hippies then :). Im not hating on you, Im hating on your feel good idea. Teleks comment at the bottom of the page explains it more eloquently than I ever could.

        1. The important word is “OF” “40% to 60% *OF* household water use” That’s as in we looked only at *household* water use & 40-60% was outdoors. As in we didn’t even look at agritulural water use…

      1. Of course hippies don’t have a thing to do with planting almonds in the desert, or exporting cattle feed, anymore than they have anything to do with irrigated corn on the High Plains.

    1. I agree. Maybe I live in a magical place, but our water comes from the river, and the towns upstream from us dump there shower water into it. And I use it. And after it goes down my drain it goes to the next town and they again pull it from the river and shower with it. The biggest waste of water is when it finally reaches the ocean and become contaminated with salt. But mother nature has got that figured out, its called evaporation and rain. learned this in 4th grade.

      1. Thing is, your water doesn’t have to come from a river (even when you live next to a river), it comes from an aquifer. Aquifers may drain faster than they are replenished. Mind you, in London, where people agree that rains an awful lot, there is water problems, and last time I checked the Thames had plenty of water.

        1. Are you telling our “leet” friend that his or her water does not come from the river? If so then how could you possibly know that?

          Our water comes from a lake. I do know this for a fact. The drain returns it (hopefully treated) to the lake. Spilled water that doesn’t evaporate will also eventually return to the lake, either through storm drains or through various natural paths. Only water which is allowed to sit and evaporate is a drain on the lake. I’m not too worried we will empty it!

          That’s not to say that over-using water wouldn’t be harmful to the enviornment. I’m sure there is a lot of energy involved in all that filtering and pumping.

          1. I didn’t, or at least I didn’t want to say that. I’m no expert, just a random guy on the internet, but wanted to give my opinion. I only say that I live close to a river and my city doesn’t ONLY take the water from the river, they take it from a number of reservoirs and aquifers (http://science.time.com/2010/06/29/fish-n-chips%E2%80%94a-solution-to-londons-drought/), that can be drained before the water filtered from the river to the soil or rain can replenish it, causing draughts. On top of that, water extracted from said aquifers or wells is obviously not destroyed and is returned to the river, but not to the aquifers. You will also have noticed settlements far way from any “water supply” (as a lake/river/sea) and they manage to get water somehow.
            And just a quick wikipedia article (I know, I know, what kind of source is wikipedia?) that kind of shows my point http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irrigation_in_Saudi_Arabia

          2. In a few cases water may be returned to the river, but often it is diverted and much of it does not return.

            Consider the Aral Sea

            Consider the Colorado River (which no longer reaches the ocean).

            Stopping watering landscaping (especially lawns) would have a much more significant effect.

            More research in contraceptives, full funding for family planning (in all countries) would have far more benefit.

          3. Actually every drop of water that humans use disappears into a magical land far far away recently discovered by Nestlé telescopes, where it is never seen again, and soon all the water on the planet is gone and we will all die!!

      2. Clearly your 4th grade education was incomplete. Good enough as our planet’s hydrological cycle goes. However the thing is in many areas the water consumed by agriculture, households, and industry in many places, is prehistoric fresh water locked away in deep aquifers. Sure that water will enter the Earth’s hydrological cycle, however it will be slow to return the aquifer from which it came, if it ever does return to it. In many places In many places reservoirs are drying up because the river flow out of them to serve demand exceeds the river flow into them. Also is other places the ground water close to the surface that many consume is also is dependent on river flow. Because of reduced river flow that ground water isn’t able to meet demand. Most likely there is a limited amount of water in the Earth’s hydrological cycle at any given time, even with the prehistoric water contributed to it, that cycle can’t meet human demand without conversation efforts. Don’t bother pointing to Jevon,s because Europe proved Jevons wrong in the years following the 1973 Arab OPEC States petroleum embargo.

        1. The only aquifer water that directly and regularly use comes in bottles after being extracted from a very delectable hole in the ground in a national forest in Tennessee.

          Everything else, on any normal day, comes from rivers and the streams that feed them. Flooding is more of a problem here than dry riverbeds, and the reservoirs here are man-made, entirely above-ground and fed by pumps.

          Local industry and agriculture may source water from wherever they source it from, but taking shorter showers can’t do a single thing about that. (And even then, it is either treated and drained to sewers or waterways for the downstream person to use, or evaporated in a cooling tower or a chiller for clouds to form. Water is never “lost” in common use.)

    2. And yet many of those uses are difficult to curb, of not unavoidable. Reducing water usage while showering is relatively easy to accomplish and still has a positive effect.

      The impact is low, but it’s low hanging fruit.

        1. +1 I can not imagine doing otherwise. How do people manage to soap themselves while the shower’s running?!

          Btw. Isn’t the typical nerd known to shower so infrequently that the environmental impact will be relatively low? ;)

        2. Yes! I removed all flow limiters and added an inline ball valve. I need and use only a gentle trickle of water to relax and zone out, for as long as I want. Then I can turn it up to full to properly rinse my hair, or blast sore muscles with the massager. So much nicer being in control than having a fixed flow limiter.

        3. I wish that was an option here. If I turned the water off (there isn’t a single valve to throw here) I’d spend three times as long getting the water back to a temp I could stand before I could rinse off. Luke warm works fine, for people who don’t have severe muscle spasms; for me a cold shower results in me laying on the floor waiting til someone brings me the pill bottles of relaxants and opioids.

          1. It is an option: Buy an inline valve. At my current house, I got a plastic ball valve for about $3 from the shower accessory section of the local home center. 1/2″ male-to-female NPT threads. Installs with bare hands. (I’d prefer brass or stainless, but that wasn’t an option that day at that place.)

        1. What’s easier to convince peopel to do: Hop out of the shower 3 minutes earlier or Lobby an elected official who in turn has to explain to angry constiuents why he’s not only costing them the family farm but also reducing revenue to their state and angering big money lobbiests who have no one to market seeds, equipment, and chemicals to?

          1. Universal Law of Man #4 – In the face of a large problem, it’s always easier to take the money and play the chickensh1t than it is to actually stand up and speak truth to power.

          2. First I fully understand as long as the farm ground remain fertile agriculture will be a significant part of the economy,but I bean seeing through the bullshit when I was in high school. Agriculture was loosing it’s ability to support it’s own next generation before the Great Depression, but less support the next generation of the surrounding community as that myth still persists. The politicians blowing up the collective ass of farmers serve the interests of others who have been disastrous for farmers. In my rural Kansas county there are about a dozen farm operations that over a decade or so have received over a million dollars from the Federal government. Great workfare if you can get it. You ain’t going to get it, because as in so many sectors policy is create to protect those who have already have theirs. Not to mention their lower Kansas property taxes or State fees are subsidized by the higher taxes and fees by other Kansans. Sooner or later there’s going to be reckoning after those who are paying the bills see through the fear mongering. No one is going to go hungry, if all the inordinary special treatment is removed. The land is going to produce food as long as it remains viable. The bustle is about who is going to get the money, and how it’s going to divied up amongst those who get it. I have lived and worked among farmers all my lie many if not most will admit this, some will even laugh at you if you cry foul.

    3. THIS. Beyond that I don’t bathe every day or 3 times a day like a teenage girl so that is my carbon offset lol.
      You can take all of the old pipe that is packed with calcium that causes us to have to wash dishes 3 times :( That would save you some water.

    1. Exactly. Except the easiest way to do that is to store the water up above the toilet level, and storing a heavy tank up high isn’t a great idea in earthquake prone California.

      1. Used shower water isn’t clean enough to use to flush toilets. One block of flats overcame this by having a vertical swamp and then a UV steriliser to recycle bath and shower water.

        1. I think by “clean” you mean there are soaps and other gunk that came off the body while showering that could cause problems with the toilet mechanism. Organisms are not the problem. Most states allow “gray water” (non-sterile, non-treated) to be used in toilets.

          1. My exact thought. Using shower water for flushing toilet is a good idea but it’s also the best way to clog your flushing mechanism by depositing soap and other filth. This water have to be filtered first.

          2. If you are going to store the water for any appreciable period of time, then soap scum is not the only problem, and you should consider/control bacteria, etc.

            Consider – what happens to the water that is aerosolized/splashed when the toilet is used or flushed.
            (There are various studies/resources about toilet splash. Given a warm, moist growth environment with infusions of bacteria/viruses/dirt/biological material, etc. in the storage tank, can expect even more interesting things to grow – molds, viruses, …)

            There would also be aesthetic considerations (smell of the culture, appearance of flushing with bio-gunge.)

            Have to deal with ventilation of the tank (to reduce smell and cut down on humidity).

            How do you clean the storage tank and pipes. (Can expect biofilms to form, etc.)

    2. I have a bucket that I put under the shower faucet for those moments while I’m waiting for the warm water. It’s clean, so it’s great for pouring into the toilet to flush it.

      As others have mentioned, though, it’s mostly an exercise in feeling good and saves more electricity than it does water, since it takes energy to clean the water but the water goes downstream to the next city either way.

      1. Instead of dispensing cold water waiting for warm, the better solution to that problem is a circulator pump. You can even get one designed for retrofit applications. It installs under your bathroom sink and when the hot water isn’t hot, it pumps it through to the cold water pipe, forming a loop back to the water heater. Thus, the hot water is always hot and none is wasted (or there are no need for whacky workarounds to prevent waste).

          1. Also: Waste fuel keeping the constantly-cooling hot water circulated, waiting to be used a few times a day. (We -can’t- run out of water, but we -must- run out of fossil fuels.)

            Up next: An autonomous gas-fired car that doesn’t know how to park itself, so it just circles the block forever until you’re ready to use it.

            (Better option: A tiny electric water heater, in-line with the hot pipe at the end far end of the plumbing system. These are small enough that they can be mounted in under-sink cabinets, can be plugged into regular outlets, and are of course able to have all of the aftermarket insulation-overkill applied to them to make them efficient-enough to be irrelevant.)

          2. And as for the fuel, there are two counter-arguments:

            1. If you insulate the hot water pipes, then the situation is no worse than keeping the hot water in your hot water heater.

            2. If you only run the circulator pump on demand, then the situation is no different than turning on the shower and waiting for the water to heat up, except that there’s no wasted water.

      1. Water is quite abundant where most humans have settled (which is relatively near coastlines). It’s *fresh* water that’s hard to come by. The upper limit on the cost of water is the cost of desalination. Yes, desalination is not cheap. But it’s not nearly as expensive as manufacturing octane will be once petroleum reserves are exhausted.

  3. I would say one thing that I think would be great is having an actual “loop” in that for heating up the shower, you wouldn’t waste water waiting for it to heat up, you could flip a valve and it would circulate to a desire temperature and when it reaches that, you can turn the actual shower on.

    1. They already exist… sort of. It forces water to circulate from the hot line and pumps it into the cold line. It raises the cold water temp gradually, but that’s all flushed out as soon as you switch on the shower and run the mix.

      A better solution, however, would be to quit putting the hot water devices on the opposite side of the damn house from the plumbing that needs it the most. My father built the house I grew up in with a water heater on each floor, immediately behind the wall to the faucet that used it the most. Built it back in the 1940’s, and he had economics at the forefront of his mind.

        1. No matter how well insulated the pipes are, they will radiate heat between the tank and point of use when the water is flowing. The longer the plumbing, the farther it will be radiating heat, and the more water wasted in getting a usable temperature. In my house, the longest hot water plumbing run is about 15 feet from tank to tap, that’s the kitchen sink. The shower/tub is about 6 feet total to the valve, bathroom sink about 10 feet, and that includes the up and down from the tank. All points of use for the hot water are within about a 7 ft radius.

          1. lol, that amount of wasted heat is small compared to the losses via the surface area of an extra tank. your father had the right idea, not the right training. tankless/point of use systems fix this problem. push button or occupancy based recirculation schemes remove all the problems of the wait with a very minor energy penalty (that is inversely proportional to pipe insulation. an intelligent, low-loss recirculation scheme would be less capital intensive, more reliable, and provide higher performance for all fixtures.

          2. The real problem with this scheme is the multiplied points of failure. Even with proper maintenance a water heater will only last around 20 years (without any maintenance they hardly last ten). And a water heater failure tends to be a spectacular event unless you’ve got a proper drainage system set up.

          3. My water heater was installed in 1989, and believe it not has been running just fine. It’s a gas model. I know some day it’s going to fail in rather spectacular fashion, and it’s to the point where it’s kinda like ok, well lets see how long this thing really goes…

    1. Ditto. The shower is my little spa treatment, and where I do my best thinking or relaxing. If my mind wanders and I spend “too long” in there, it’s because I freakin’ NEED TO; and anyone who proposes putting a nag in the shower deserves a swift kick in the nuts/ovaries.

      1. Thank you. Someone finally brought common sense into the equation. Maybe if Al Gore would sell off his 15000 square foot mansion that uses more resources than a Chinese steel mill I might actually take this seriously.

        Who am I kidding, no I wouldn’t.

        The green movement is a bad joke… how many times have you had to double flush because the burrito just wouldn’t go away? Yeah that saved water. You know what else we’re discovering? Sewage plants are actually having to add water to the input sewage because there isn’t enough water to properly process it. Seems we’ve won the battle, but lost the war anyway.

        Not even going to get into cost… because I’ll never hear the end of ‘oh but you can’t put a price on the safety of the world’… Augh.. I’m positively ready to wretch.

        You want to change the world? Go bother the 3rd world countries where it still isn’t safe to drink the water in 2015. I’m pretty sure they are polluting way worse than the developed nations.

        1. You’re lucky if you get away with a double flush rather than a triple.

          For a few years now, I have to use gallons of extra water each day to hand wash my aluminum cookware, instead of putting it in the dishwasher with everything else. Why? Because they took the phosphate out of dishwashing powder, and apparently replaced it with something that makes aluminum corrode, making the entire load smell and taste like metal. Even keeping the aluminum out of the dishwasher, my stainless everyday utensils still sometimes smell funky. Sometimes I just don’t want to deal with all, and end up using disposable foil cookware and plastic utensils instead. Good job, greenies!

          And now they’ve taken phosphorus out of lawn fertilizers too. Seems my lawn (which I have no choice but to maintain) needs the missing phosphorus. I can get it separately, but only in pure concentrated form, not in nice all-in-one time-release pellets as before. So I’ll have to use a mixing sprayer, using more water, and producing more runoff.

          The nonsense is by no means limited to water. Recently I tried to replace an aging ceiling fan, and found all the new ones are mandated by law to have tiny candelabra-style light sockets, because they don’t want you using more than 15W incandescents. I was already using standard 13W CFLs, which produce 4x more light for 2W less, but now won’t fit without ridiculous-looking adapters. Or using special CFLs with smaller sockets, but apparently they have so little room for decent ballasts, they take two minutes to reach useful brightness.

          We have curbside recycling here. I was excited when it was announced, and recycled everything I could. But they take you off the pickup list if you forget to leave a bin at the curb even once, or if you put out any empty bin because you had nothing to recycle in the last few days. And it takes weeks to get back on the list. I gave up and now my recyclables go in the regular trash. I don’t feel bad after finding out the vast majority of those recyclables are just piling up either here or after being shipped overseas, as no one is actually willing to recycle them.

          Virtually every effort to “save the environment” that has been foisted or forced upon me has been a complete sham. I don’t care anymore, other than dreading what comes next. If anyone is serious about saving the world, start by taking two steps back and applying some common sense to existing broken initiatives, rather than proposing even more idiocy.

          1. Like the post I’m replying to, I’m also for doing useful recycling and conservation, however it really chaps my butt when virtually all the recycle and eco crap that gets pushed on me makes my life way harder, more expensive, and doesn’t really address any legitimate problem, or if it does, it makes a infinitesimally small amount of difference. Sorry, I’m not into doing “green” things because it makes me feel good. If we really do get into serious water droughts, we already have a solution, which is economical, safe, and highly effective: Nuclear desalination. We also have new desalination techniques which look highly promising.

          2. Some of the early low water use toilets were terrible. The new ones are much better than the old water wasters. Technology marches on. Who would have thought it?

  4. Why not run showers like award shows? Where once you use up your time, the music starts and becomes louder and louder? Take that one further, and the water becomes colder and colder!

    1. A next U.S. Navy friend told me that on ship after a certain amount of time the water switches to cold.
      In our house it is the same way, but only because someone has used up all the hot water.

  5. Hackaday FAIL! I shower by turning the water on getting wet, turn it off, lather up, then rinse off… Turns out it doesn’t matter because idiots all over the US waste water on grass. If people turned their lawns into gardens it would matter but they won’t because they are all experts at herd mentality. This would mean local food, no transport costs and less water usage.

    Try again maybe you can come up with a better idea.

    1. I met a woman once who had her bathtub drain line diverted into a reservoir. By using “clean” soaps and being careful not to urinate in the shower, she can collect enough gray water to water her lawn twice a week. There’s even a valve that diverts the water directly to the sewer line if she gets herself so filthy that she doesn’t want to water the lawn with that crap.

      To this day, I have never encountered such a small localized system elsewhere

        1. The issue is not dirt but rather chemicals. The manufacture of soap is an esterification reaction which results in fatty acid salts. In addition many soaps have added agents which would not be desirable to have on your lawn. The reason urine cannot be added is while urea is a viable fertilizer urine also contains heavy amounts of sodium and potassium salts which are also not desirable. Using urine would be closer to salting the earth than fertilizing it.

          1. Some soaps would likely be OK. It’s already a common practice to use baby shampoo in various homemade lawn treatments. It can increase wetting properties of soil to decrease run-off and/or assist in natural processes that help reduce compaction. Also can be used to help sugars adhere to thatch, providing fuel for accelerated bacterial breakdown. At least so the claims go.

  6. I used to try and adhere to the ‘4 minute shower’ suggestion made by my residence. It was rare that I was able to actually get the water to a useable temperature in that time. This is probably a good issue to try and tackle.

  7. My shower head is a low-flow head that runs less than 2 gpm. Since I live in one of the wettest parts of the US, I am not terribly concerned with my water use beyond that. The local water systems pull water from rain-fed aquifers, and the municipal sewage system cleans the water and returns it to the environment. No Problem.

  8. How about we fix the infrastructure so it does not leak 220+ BILLION gallons of water (Enough water for about 9,000,000,000 10 minute showers) each year instead of wasting efforts on meaningless gestures like cutting 5 seconds off your shower? How about holding our water resources boards accountable for allowing almonds and rice to be grown in arid climates before they are allowed to vote themselves big fat raises?

  9. Various sources quote an average shower time of around 8 minutes.
    If every man, woman, and child on earth reduced their shower time by 5 seconds, then the water saving effected by this would be overtaken by the increase in consumption caused by world population growth in less than one year.
    This phenomenon is at the heart of all resource based human problems (and most of the environmental ones too).

  10. Lets see… I can reduce my shower times by five seconds, I’d say… It’s all about proportions, I guess. My morning shower could go from 30 minutes to 29 minutes and 55 seconds and I suppose I’d be good. I think I sleep through the first 20 minutes of it anyway.

  11. “Clean water is precious”? Maybe it’s relatively expensive LA, but in many parts of the world there’s plenty. You don’t even have to leave the US to find people who have wells that provide enough water to bathe, fill their pools in the summer, etc. In the parts of the (usually 3rd) world it’s truly precious, showering isn’t a problem because the people don’t have them.
    I hope this is not the kind of ideas the Hackaday prize is looking for, as it would be a waste.

      1. You assume the companies paying to install & run the wells actually have a conscience… that’s cute. It’s well established that the governmental agencies tasked with monitoring compliance in these areas are largely useless and can do next to nothing in terms of actual enforcement. Combine those two realities and let me know what’s likely to keep happening…

  12. A recirculating valve would ensure water wasn’t wasted while warming the shower. Push the red button and the recirculating pump runs until a thermocouple senses adequately warm water, then the pump turns off. Couple that with a ball valve that gives you full pressure for a certain amount of time at the beginning and slowly starts to throttle back on pressure at an exponential rate over time.

  13. I love to spend too much time in the shower. It is a great place to think. Having spent a lot of time sailing on a boat without a shower, I have come to appreciate what an amazing luxury it is.
    A sauna is a bit like a shower, but without the water waste. You get the great heat that improves blood circulation. You can sit down and contemplate weighty issues. And if you find you like the sound of water to help you think, you can have that too.

    1. This.

      Are there currently showers that operate like dishwashers/car washes? If not, then why? A certain amount of water fills a reservoir (which keeps it heated to the desired temperature), and pumps that to the shower head. The water would then drain, go through a filtration process, and return to the reservoir until you are finished. Then it can be filtered again and then used as grey water for other purposes.

  14. Timer and shutoff attached only to the hot water line should do it. Have it located outside of the shower, so it cannot be reset easily. This should make people wrap up their showers real quick.

  15. Please, can someone explain to me how a person reducing the length of their shower in an area with plentiful water will somehow increase the amount of water in areas that actually need it?

    This is yet another example of people trying to save the world through statistics.

    1. Yes, one foot in boiling water and the other in ice water, and it all averages out.
      In Boulder, Colorado, USA a couple of decades ago they decided to improve their air quality. The knew that 92% of their pollution was caused by automobile exhaust, so they banned wood burning stoves/fireplaces.

      1. And there is no global warming because it’s snowing ? For now you have water everywhere but some people are really afraid that the water will be too polluted to be used in no more than 5 years.

        Of course, saving water in countries where there is enough is not going to send it to countries where they actually need it but by using less water, you are polluting less water (don’t tell me that the soap you’re using is always good for environment). The problem raised by hackaday is not only about people that don’t have access to clean water but it’s more about the amount of clean water left. How are you going to find a solution to desertification if all you have left is polluted water that will need huge infrastructures to be cleaned up ? We need to slow the countdown before everything we got is completely spoiled.

        1. If water is so polluted, the more we run through purifiers by using it in the shower the better things get.I would think. So increase your use of the shower to get more clean water.

          In reality water we get from the tap is either coming from lakes or rivers with some filtering or from deep wells where the earth filtered it. And the pollution is not coming from showering really but instead some from industrial use of water but mostly from companies simply dumping their waste in the seas/rivers to get rid of it, or from companies who dump waste on land where the rain pick up the pollutants as well as atmospheric pollution which again is picked up by the rain and ends up in rivers/seas/lakes..

          And the big problem with using water in moderate climate regions is the power used to clean and transport (pump) it and of course for many users the cost they get charged with from the water suppliers.

  16. Quick, simple, and already implemented system. Put one of those “push here to get water for 30 seconds” valves downstream from your mixer valves. Oh, and save the expensive water recirc valves, return loop pumps, etc. Just go tankless. Saves having to buy a big water heater, or having 2 complete plumbing loops in your house.

    1. if you are REALLY concerned about conserving resources then you should move into a large apartment building where all of the heat and hot water is made centrally, you don’t need an automobile, and you can walk to the grocery store.

      Or maybe you can see how much fresh water is used to manufacture your gasoline and you might realize that moving into an apartment building and getting rid of your car will allow you to consume far less water and far less energy than tweaking your shower.

    2. It’s pretty clear that you really don’t know what the purpose of either of those systems. The former is intended to reduce the amount of wasted water when actually trying to get hot water. This is a direct result of moronic building codes that put the water heater in the garage but the bathroom/kitchen/whatever the furthest possible distance from hot water source. Some builders using those stupid plastic pipes will actually route the water around the outermost wall increasing the distance even further rather than running it under the floor as they’re supposed to (though that has it’s own share of problems).

      A tankless is designed to reduce the amount of fuel consumed trying to keep hot water hot. A tankless is usually more “expensive” in terms of the amount of energy consumed when “instantly” heating the water, but is far cheaper when the energy consumption is averaged out of a span of time.

  17. Water is free. It comes from the sky.
    I shower until I am clean and don’t smell. I don’t care how much water is “used”. Another politically motivated product that no one needs.

    Finally, I cannot see how saving a minute or two on your shower a day will offset all the chemicals, plastics, and other materials that would go into the manufacturing process of said shower head. Plus you probably have to add power to it, a constant cost. (A flow generator still needs to be manufactured; it has moving parts that will break.)

    Remember “used” water != pollution.

    1. The water that comes out of your shower is most decidedly NOT free if it needed to be collected and transported to you. The reservoirs and tanks that hold water are not free either, they need constant maintenance.

      The water that runs down your drain is not free, either. It goes into a treatment plant to remove your stink before it is allowed to flow into the environment, and that’s NOT cheap.

    2. I pay for water, as most city dwellers do. Even people with wells pay for electricity to pump the water.
      Most city dwellers also pay for sewer service. If you have a septic tank and can collect water for free from the sky.. then more power to ya.

    3. It hasn’t rained where I live more than a handful of days over the last *three* months. Probably not much more over the last six months.

      Rain may be free, but there isn’t much in a lot of places. I have a stack of steel for a project in my back yard four feet tall parked there for over a month and nary a spot of rust.

      1. You never eat asparagus don’t you ? Because if you do so and don’t flush, you will have a surprise next time you go in the toilets (or even worse, if someone else go there)

      1. there are male nurses. I’m male, and getting a sponge bath by a male nurse isn’t my idea of genius. While you may wash it as fast, and long as you want in the shower, a nurse is likely to tell you to sponge bath it yourself.

  18. Population, repeated 100 times. Fix it all else will be good. Don’t, and all else will fail. Exceptions, earth and astro events of high magnitude.
    Why are hot water pipes not insulated? Should be code! Waste occurs when resuming any use of warm or hot water.
    One lever to pause water flow and resumption to same temperature, no hot surge because of valve compression or whatever.
    Handheld sprayers should be code. Notice I said sprayer not shower. Works much faster and uses less water at getting soap residue off skin and hair follicles. Feel really clean. Baldness is mostly caused by soap where oil should be and high blood pressure. Foot in diameter “rain” showerheads should already be illegal. When I turn the water off my long hair is already in place no further handling is needed. Natures beats anything man can come up with. Would you paint spray with a fixed spray nozzle on the wall?
    Brushing teeth, what no drinking fountain? Just let the water run for the 2 minutes that your told to take.
    You have to use your hands like a monkey. No.
    An unwashed glass used by everyone! Yes. E Coli….
    Sink faucets are designed to fill the basin, so you can washrinse in your captive dirty water.
    Then you will leave the rest on a towel.
    Clearly there some basic plumbing designs that need revised for the current age.

  19. Feedback for being in there too long?? Its called RUNNING OUT OF HOT WATER. Or around my house its me yelling at the teenage kids “Did ya fall in??” “Get out the damn shower!”

  20. I want to see someone do a long term test on flow restricted VS unrestricted shower heads. One place this could be done is in an athletic club that has several shower stalls.

    Put numbers on each shower. Remove the flow restrictor from half of the shower heads. Install flowmeters on all of them. When members check in each day, randomly assign a shower number.

    At the end of the test period, at least a month, add up how much water went through restricted VS unrestricted showerheads.

    To be even more scientific would require a way to monitor the drain water for soap content so it could be told when the shower user has completely rinsed off.

    More science! Give each person a fixed amount of soap and shampoo to use, then it could be found exactly how much water it takes to rinse away a known quantity of soap and shampoo.

    To test without human variables, use seamless mannequins with a silicone coating having a skinlike texture so it holds soap like human skin. Coat the mannequins with a known quantity of soap then rotate under the spray of various shower heads until all the soap is rinsed off.

    The questions to be answered:
    Do flow restricted shower heads save water?
    Do people take longer showers with flow restricted showerheads because it takes longer to rinse off, thus not saving any water?
    Do some people end up using more water with flow restricted showers because the restricted heads are less effective at rinsing off soap and shampoo?

    If people use the same amount of water to get rinsed off then the “savings” or restricted showerheads is a wash.

    Instead of restricting the flow, a better way to save water would be detecting when the person is actually clean, then alerting the showerer. “You are now rinsed clean. To save water you should end your shower. Your coffee will be ready in two minutes. The weather forecast today… Ewww! Gross! The shower is not a urinal!”

  21. Coincidentally, Evil Mad Scientist’s Linkdump today brought up
    this article which lists how much water is required for various foods. A single almond takes 5 gallons of water (typically out of drought-stricken California).

    If you stay in the shower an extra 20 minutes, so you don’t have time to fry up one ounce of bacon for breakfast, then that’s a net win in terms of water.

  22. As others have stated, STOP WATERING LAWNS! Convert grass lawns that serve little purpose, to gardens. Having produce at your home reduces transportation costs. I have a little idea of “inverted umbrellas” that collect rain water which probably won’t be implemented ever or until it’s too late.

    Seal homes better for energy leakage. Make stoplights and design roads to get traffic flowing better. List goes on and on, someone will always get real pissed and stop it as we get entrenched stupidity.

  23. I found that the number one reason that I keep the water running the whole time I’m in the shower is because it’s too cold when it’s turned off. Just put a couple of IR lights above your shower, and only run the water when you actually need it. 75%+ of the time in the shower you don’t need the water running. That’ll save a lot more than cutting 5 seconds.

    Alternately would it be feasible to try to create a cheap, relatively portable desalination/filtration system for the HaD Prize?

  24. In an average home, showers are typically the third largest water use after toilets and clothes washers. The average American shower uses 17.2 gallons (65.1 liters) and lasts for 8.2 minutes at average flow rate of 2.1 gallons per minute (gpm) (7.9 lpm).

    In 2005, about 410,000 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) of water was withdrawn for use in the United States. Excluding thermoelectric usage (which is generally “flow-through”) 209,000 MGal/d was used. Domestic water usage accounts for only 3,830 MGad/d (or 1.8%). Of that, approximately 17% is used by showers (or 0.3% of total water use). Even if you could shorten the average shower by 10%, that’s only a 0.03% savings (plus there are already over-the-counter shower timers which several utilities give away for free).

    Conversely irrigation, even for household use, is the biggest consumer of water. Total irrigation usage was 128,000 MGal/d (or 61% of total usage). I would suspect probably a couple orders of magnitude more water is wasted there than can be saved from showers. If we could look for ways to even reduce irrigation usage by 5%, that’s 100x more effective than we can achieve by shortening showers. Perhaps that would be a better goal?

    We really love our IoT devices here – how about something like a networked soil moisture sensor that can be used in both residential and commercial settings alike, with a relay to control watering duration and frequency?

  25. the reduced water consumption can trigger strange effects: due to the reduced flow sewer pipes need to be flushed regularly in certain areas here in Europe. with fresh water of course…. I think ‘order of magnitude’ analysis is key to identify real problems, not placebo ‘lets make the world a better place’ actionism.

      1. It will sure save the environment if you replace millions of miles of sewers, and then have to get rid of the old stuff. All the while closing down the cities while it’s done. And replace them with what? Well we will make modern plastic of course, which will not be polluting to make at all I’m sure. Oh and it’s all done using solar powered diggers of course, and transported on solar powered trucks. Which we’ll first have to make from non-polluting materials in non-polluting plants.

        1. Presumably you’d install the new, better sewers piece by piece, as part of the maintenance. There must be bypasses and things installed for when one part of a sewer needs closing down.

  26. Although i think it is always reasonable to be carefull with spoiling precious fresh water , when some minor adjustments can safe gallons a day/person. I think it is comparable to reducing CO2 emission by unplugging phone chargers. Here in Holland we had a government funded campaign for this issue. If you calculate how much CO2 a person emits when flying a plane or start an old diesel car to unplugging a 5 watt charger, you would come to the conclusion it makes no difference unplugging your charger compared to the bigger picture.

    Saving the environment is only possible when the consensus finds its ways throughout the world. While we try to wash out our ecological shampoo under a pis-stream of shower water , China is dumping heavy metals from their large scale industry plants in their rivers.

    i’m not a hater, i do like panda’s, but also like to be realistic.

  27. I was listening to NPR the other day and heard a great idea – no shower until you exercise. Implementing this simple rule will reduce the number and frequency of showers you take – or – will reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and its associated health risks.

    Win win.

  28. The best way of any I have seen to conserve water is to have a heating lamp in the bathroom. I spend way to long in the shower just trying to be warm. The lamp warms me up, and keeps me warm when I turn off the flow.

    1. I hope you use green power if you choose to do that, else that is a bad idea in the environmental sense, it’s much much better for the environment to take a long shower than to waste a huge amount of energy on electric heating (if you don’t use green power of some sort.)

  29. I’ve often wondered why there isn’t another pipe that feeds back into the hot water heater so water isn’t actually wasted, it’s just re-circulated if it’s not at the specified temperature.

    1. I have brought this up in a previous article post. Spa parts off the shelf, a ‘duino controlled rinse divert drain add makeup hot water and get a long invigorating massage with a handheld sprayer-jet. Has real medical use.
      Nice to know someone is on it.

  30. This is just one of many waste energy re-capture (WERC) ideas going around. I would prefer a separate pump and plumbing system for simplicity and for not soiling the primary water line. Just use electric pumping after partially filing the tub with hot water.

    I plan on developing an easy way to interface your refrigerator compressor to floor heating so the waste energy isn’t just dumped into the room to be sucked out by AC later. I also plan on a simple cabinet that hangs out into the outside – to keep hot food hot on hot days and to refrigerate for free over the cold season. And furthermore all the waste heat that escapes my house ought to be turned into something useful like electricity.

    WERC will save our lives!!!

    1. Hm. Plugging a fridge into an aircon system might be a good idea. Then again fridges produce more heat when the environment is warm, and that’s when you don’t need floor heating. How much heat does a fridge put out anyway?

      For using the waste heat for heating, perhaps a simple fan blowing air from behind the fridge would be good enough. It might be that not enough heat comes out to make a more complicated system worthwhile.

  31. No away of getting around the fact that potable water is a finite resource. So the older low flow toilets take two flushes depend on the load they end up using less water than the old standard toilet. Any problems that low flow toilets are for the sewage system, they are addressable. As water becomes scarcer they will be addressed and the cost of water will go up. While the tough talking commenter may bitch about it, they are going ro change their habits like everyone else if they want water supplied to them, and their crap drained away. I live on a rural property. I am the water wast and trash utility. I fit the jet in my water pump to deliver 3GPM or so With the drought I’m very mindful of my consumption . I’ll become more if I have to haul water. Doubtful that I’d install a device like this if made available. I already do what it does out of habit.

        1. What’s the difference? Reuse gives you a half assed substitute for the real thing that may or may not do the intended job without unintended consequences, recycling costs money.

          If we just had less pesky humans to deal with, the problem would be a lot more manageable.

    1. There’s lots of places use recycled gray water from sinks or showers etc to flush toilets. More of these should be fitted. Although I wonder what happens if you rinse bits of glass off a cut hand, or throw up in the sink. It’s not just water that goes down a drain.

  32. Water conservation aside, heat exchange the warm drain water with the cold supply water before it enters the water heater. Big energy savings and now we’re talking longer showers without modifying the hot water tank.

    I’ll plus one this myself cause I know it’s big


  33. I am currently remodeling my bathroom and will be adding a feedback loop into my manifold system to accomplish this very task. As the new bathroom will have a spa like tiled shower and deep corner bath, the water consumption will skyrocket since I routinely enjoy 2-3 hr showers. By way of an isolation valve in the wall access housing my tankless heater thermostat controls, I will be able to fill a reservoir tank while initialing filling the tub/showering. Once full, the ISO valves will interupt the drain and redirect the run off back into the water heater system, closed off from the rest of the houses drinking supply of course. Ideally, I will shower as long as I like using the same inital “fill” amount of water.

    1. How are you going to cope with soap residue and skin detritus going through the system? It’ll surely need cleaning now and then, unless there’s a filter. Also worry about hair ruining the pump impeller. Long hair gets everywhere.

  34. I absolutely cannot believe that California has not mandated hot water re-circulation pump for all showers for new construction. It’s not that expensive, it’s a well proven technology, it increases quality of life, and it “saves water”, in the sense of not sending it back for treatment. There should probably even be a state-sponsored program to simply put them in people’s homes.

    I also can’t believe that we don’t have digitally controlled temperature setpoint servo valves for showers yet. Apparently they are quite common in Japan, and even in Europe. But if you look at the Moen or Delta sight, they are crazy expensive, $1500, and are rare in the US. You *might* see one on display in a high-end appliance sales boutique.

    Again, the benefits are obvious: Don’t throw hot water down the drain, and you can send a signal, audible or visual, when the water is at the right temperature.

    In fact, that idea of the servo valve is so rare here in the US that I went to a “product design” final showcase for the big mechatronics class here at UC Berkeley, and one group was very proudly showing off their design for exactly that, a temperature controller for the shower. They said that there’s nothing like it on the market, touted the benefits etc … and I had to show them that this product did already exist, but it was just so uncommon that they’d never heard of it. (unfortunately, they lost *a lot* off their grade for not doing proper market research, but their device was well built)

  35. When I do shower, which is rare cos I hate ’em (so I have a nice bath instead), I do it Navy-style. Not that I was ever in a navy. You turn on the water, cover yourself in it. Turn off the shower, apply soap to whole body. Then use the shower again to rinse.

    Saves tons of water. Navies originally used the method when they had to carry fresh water, before desalination became easier. So they needed to conserve it. There’s no need to have the shower head pouring away while the water’s not going to any use. You can only get so wet. Saves energy too.

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