Shorter Showers

Central to the concept of voluntary simplicity is the idea that less is more. Working less means more time for family and friends. Spending less on material possessions means more money in your savings account. And consuming less means more left for our kids to enjoy.

One area of consuming that I’m still pretty bad at is with water. My whole life I’ve always been able to turn a faucet to get clean, fresh water for drinking, bathing, slip-and-sliding, cooking and cleaning. Having such ready access to water it’s no wonder I take it for granted so much.

Despite the seemingly endless supply we have here in Canada, water is poised to be the most fought-after resource of the 21st century. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), water scarcity affects one in three people on every continent of the globe. And, “The situation is getting worse as needs for water rise along with population growth, urbanization and increases in household and industrial uses.”

And Canada is among the worst, ranking the second highest in terms of per capita water consumption, only slightly better than the US. High levels of water use places strain on the rivers, lakes and aquifers we draw from. This can lead to the need to construct dams and flood huge areas, causing significant ecological damage. High consumption also spells trouble economically as more and more infrastructures needs to be invested in to meet our growing demand.

One very simple way of doing less to save more is getting water-saver showerheads and cutting back the length of our showers. I won’t get into specific tips on shorter shower techniques, but standing under the stream of water for 5 minutes doing nothing probably isn’t your best use of time. Here’s what else you should avoid in your search for a more efficient shower:

I did a quick check in my bathroom and discovered I have a 6 litre per minute showerhead.

What that means is that a 15 minute shower translates to 90 litres of water (6 L/min x 15 min). 90 litres in 15 minutes. To put that in perspective, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, the average weekly quantity of water used by a person in a developing country is 70 litres. That’s right, I use more water in a quick rinse than millions of people use in a week.

Digging wells in Ghana certainly opened my eyes to the idea of water scarcity.

Over a year that’s 32,850 litres of water I use from showering alone (90 L x 365 days).

Reducing the length of my showers by just 5 minutes means I’m now using 60 litres of water instead of 90 (6 L/min x 10 min). In a year I’m saving nearly 11,000 litres of water with this simple reduction (60 L x 365 days = 21,900 litres/year vs 32,850 litres with a 15 minute shower).

If we hope to preserve a sustainable water supply for future generations major structural and policy changes are needed at the highest levels. But governments and businesses are made up of people, so these changes start at the household level with simple lifestyle shifts like cutting back shower times that will help weave conservation into our everyday life and root it as a fundamental value.


Funny stories. Good advice. Josh Martin is the author of the book “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.

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