Running Drinking Water Down the Drain

Written by Andrew Morrison

waterfallThis is a charged blog entry. I am angry and I am speaking out. I am disgusted with the consumption values of the American culture. With over 14,000 people dying everyday from lack of clean water, we in America (I know we all don’t fall into this category, but the vast majority of Americans do) still feel like it is okay to install a shower like the one in the picture above. That should be a crime! The shower above uses roughly 80 gallons of water per minute. We are literally running drinking water down the drain.

There is a recirculating pump on the system, but that does not stop an average person from using 200 gallons or more of water each shower. Consider that over one BILLION people walk at least three miles every day just to gather 5 gallons of somewhat clean water. What’s worse is the fact that the only reason the system has a recirculating pump is because there are no water heaters (other than on demand) that can handle an output of hot water in that magnitude. I am not even sure that an on demand heater could handle that kind of demand. Oh, by the way, you can also use this system with the foot bath which uses a mere 37 gallons of water to massage your feet! That’s important after walking how far to get your water?

Unfortunately, shower units like the one above are becoming more and more common in high end homes. Even more disturbing is the fact that plumbing companies are now making more affordable models so they can be installed in more homes. In many areas of the country, consumers use more water than can be replaced and aquifers and water tables are drying up because of that.

It will not be long before the World runs out of clean, potable water. It IS a finite resource. Too many people are dying and too many people will die in the future for us to run our drinking water over our bodies and into the drain simply so we can relax. That is inexcusable.

I ask you to consider other forms of relaxation. If, for example you like the idea of hot water, consider a solar heated hot tub. If you like high heat in general, an efficient sauna will cleanse your body far better than any shower. We as a culture need to start being accountable for our actions. Not owning a system like the one above is not enough. If I don’t speak out against such systems and inform my clients of the impacts of the systems so they can reconsider their use, I am allowing such systems to gain a foothold in the market and I am therefore responsible for their proliferation. I will not let that happen as much as I can control it from here. I ask you to spread the word about this inexcusable waste.

If you know some one considering a system like this or who already has one, don’t turn a blind eye. Instead, let them know the impacts of their decision. Tell them about the 7,000 children who die everyday because they can’t get access to clean water. I hope that their heart and conscience will not allow them to use such a system any longer.

9 Responses

  1. Thanks for this post. I have a lot of clients who like these showers and I always find it hard to install them becuase of the water waste. I will run some of these statistics by them and see if that helps them change their mind. Thanks again.

  2. OK, I don’t want to disturb your state of parnoia, so take this the way it is intended –

    The reason we have showers like this in the USA is because we CAN! We have the best water purifications systems, the best infrastructure, the best jobs, and in most cases, the best of everything. This is yet another example of something third world countries can look to us as something they want to emulate. I have traveled the entire globe, and every time I leave the US shore, I am quickly reminded why I love our country so much and why I can’t wait to get back home. GOD BLESS THE USA!!!

  3. I hear you and I completely disagree. You must remember when fishermen said they could fish as much as they wanted because the resource was there. Or when the foresters said they could clear cut because the resources were there. The impact of producing this much waste water is huge. The fact of the matter is that water is a finite resource and to act casually with it because there is enough around today is irresponsible. Our population is growing fast. We just hit 300 million people in the United States. As the number of people grows, the amount of water does not. It is not a question of paranoia, it is a question of numbers and the reality of mathematics.

  4. I just read your blog and thought I would toss in my two cents…

    Personaly, I like those showers a lot, and I understand why people like to have them in their homes. They are very nice. That being said, I choose not to have one in my home, because of the same reasons you wrote this article.

    I find myself constantly struggling while choosing between the finer things in life, and leaving a smaller footprint on the earth. I would love to drive something like a Prius, but I drive a fullsize pickup, because I have a very strong need for a truck for moving loads around I would never fit into a small fuell efficient car. My wife has a much more fuel efficient vehicle then I do, and we use hers for family outings and when ever possible, but I still do own and drive a large pickup truck. I would be willing to buy biodiesal for my truck, even at a higher cost, if I had that option where I live.

    My family and I will be starting construction on our next and final home this coming spring. It will be strawbale, solar/propane water heat, compact floru and led lights, designed to make good use of natural light, and somewhat passive solar heating (our building site isn’t the best for that) and we will also be using geothermal heat and cooling. It will be on grid, and I will have several pc’s/servers in the home wasting power, but that’s how I make my living and have to have it

    While I realize your entry was about water use/waste, it goes to show the genreal waste of resources we have not just in the US, but among all developed nations.

    There seem to be two radical sides to this debate, and very few moderates(same as in politics). I have seen the side that thinks I should give up my car, cut off the powerlines, buy a herd of goats, stop eating meat, and start homesteading. Then there is the other side, that feels I should drive the biggest SUV on my block, just to show off what I can afford, while draining a swimming pool worth of water to take a shower.

    I think both of these types are wrong, I think people just need to be aware of what they use, and make desesions to do the best they can with how they leave the Earth once they are gone. By die hard enviormentalist standards I am probly not doing a great job, but I am doing a much better job then the other camp. I think if everyone started to adopt practile guidlines towards resource use, the world be be a much nicer place.

  5. Thanks for your comments. I totally agree with you that a perfect environmentalist is not possible and all we can do is our best to lessen our impact on the planet. There is a local talk show host here in Southern Oregon who has the sign off line: “Until next time, do what you can do.” I love that and try to live my life from that place. Pushing myself to do what I can do and stay on the edge of my comfort threshold, always leaning into the “Green Unknown!”

  6. I want to comment on this too.

    My husband and I just finished remodeling our bathroom and installed two showerheads on opposite ends of the shower. The reason being, we like to shower together and with only one showerhead, one of us was always standing in the area with no water and getting cold.

    But here’s the important part. We installed it with a diverter, so when we turn the diverter valve to activate the second showerhead, the water pressure goes down in the first. We use no more water to run two showerheads than we do with one!

    And, it’s wonderful to stand in the middle (under the skylight with the sun streaming in) and get drenched by two showers at the same time!

  7. What would be the point of buying a herd of goats and giving up meat?
    The water problem will get worse, if you live in the country and can pump grey water (from the shower, sink etc) to a different location, perhaps using it for watering the vegetable garden or orchard (yeah I know it can contain pathogens, but they’re MY pathogens and MY vegetables, and I don’t spray the stuff around just trickle it), you can reduce your usage, protect your septic system and save money. If you live in town, it gets flushed into the communal sewage disposal system (notice disposal not recycling) and poured into rivers that eventually get to the ocean and become useless to all but the esturine life forms that live in the area.
    Orange County (so I hear) has just started recycling sewage water into a drinkable, cleaner than tap water comodity, but due to public sensibilities, they are pumping it into the aquifer, instead of the peoples homes. Once in the aquifer it gets pumped out and filtered again (what a waste) before being used.
    Coming from London England, I grew up with the fact that the river Thames water is reused 6 times times over before it reaches the North Sea! No one gets sick from drinking it, I never heard of sewage contamination ever getting into drinking water until I came the States!

  8. I can’t wait to plant our garden this year. With the price of fresh veggies at the grocery and poor quality, it will be a treat!

  9. Tending a garden goes a long way to help relieve stress. Pulling weeds does a lot more for you than just housekeeping for your garden

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