When I was a boy, my father installed a flow restrictor on our shower head to save water. Since we lived in one of the rainiest regions of the United States and regularly suffered from floods, I’m not sure why he felt compelled to do this. It must have seemed like the right thing to do. From that day forward, our shower trickled rather miserably, no matter how far we opened the taps.
So when I needed a new shower head a couple of years ago, I didn’t insist on a low-flow shower head. I was afraid of giving my family members an incentive to bath—using even more water—in order to avoid the trickle. Only when the sales person at Plumblink handed over the shower head did she mention that it was a low-flow design. In the intervening months, I have suspected that she was wrong. This shower head, a Lio Gio from Bossini, sprays with such abandon I could not fathom that it could be saving water.
Our shower water flows into the garden and the water is heated by the sun, so I don’t worry too much about shower water usage, and I hadn’t given the subject much thought again until I happened upon a U.S. Department of Energy guide to water-saving technologies. It said that switching from an older shower head, which would typically use 14 litres per minute, to a low-flow head could cut water consumption in the shower by two-thirds or more. Low-flow heads typically use 9.5 l/minute, but some go as low as 3.8 l/minute.
And the guide says they won’t leave you shivering under a trickle:
customer satisfaction surveys—such as the one undertaken by SBW Consulting for the Bonneville Power Administration—have shown that well-designed, lowflow showerheads provide showers that are just as satisfactory as those provided by older models with more forceful flows.
Inspired by this shower of information, I decided to take a stopwatch and bucket into the shower and find out what was happening in my house. At full force—a spray so strong that I would normally turn it down—my Lio Gio used 7.6 l/minute. That’s not the best you can buy, apparently, but still is below average consumption even for a low-flow head. Then I visited another house with armed with my bucket and watch to test an older shower head. It was using 15 l/minute, double my shower consumption.
There are many purchases you can make to save water. Buying water-wise plants to re-landscape your garden is probably the most significant one on the list. A new, efficient dishwasher or dual-flush toilet will also save a lot of water. But these are all fairly major purchases. If you want to start saving water—and the energy used to heat it—without spending much more than a couple hundred rand, the shower is a good place to get your feet wet.