06 June 2011

Moving from bath to shower

Somewhere midsummer we had to turn the water off at the mains for a day to allow pipe work in our street. We are one in a series of three units and the water meters for all three were replaced at the same time about two years ago. The residents of both other units have not changed in that time. Tyson came back from the meters to report that the unit directly behind (two adults, one baby, paved yard) had double the amount of water clocked on their meter already while the unit at the back (two adults, lush garden and rumours of a spa) had used ten times as much water as us in the two years. We were a bit stunned, but also quite cocky about our frugal water usage.
We were therefore quite miffed when towards the end of summer we got a six-month water bill indicating our water usage had increased by about 25% from the same time last year. How was this possible?! Last summer we had three adults and a baby in the house. This summer we have had two adults and a toddler. The only major change to water usage we could identify was Eva's move from the baby bath to the big bath. 

Subsequently we began encouraging Eva to share showers with us rather than have a bath. At present she probably has 1-2 baths per week and showers the rest. Partly I think the transition has been possible because showers are warmer. Baths are fun in summer and I suspect when it warms up again we may struggle to keep the number of baths to a minimum. 

Time to hang up the bathmat and move on...
Water use has become a more significant issue in Perth this year as we have had so little rain in the past twelve months. Media outlets recently reported that even if we have good rains this winter Perth's dams will be all out of drinking water by the end of next summer. Strangely this has not seemed to make any impression on Perth people's use of water. (Dams do only provide 25-45% of our drinking water, but that's still a lot of water we won't have!)

Initial Time: Toddler shared showers are generally quicker than toddler baths.

Initial Cost: Zero.

Ongoing time or cost commitment: Zero.

Impact: An average Eva bath uses about 50-60L of water (significantly less than if I have a bath!). Of this, about 20-25L is hot water, using about 1 unit of energy to heat with gas, meaning about 250g of Carbon Dioxide. An average shared shower uses about the same amount of water and gas. However, its washing two of us. (As the weather is cooler at present, I don't always have a shower on the nights when she has a bath, but I'm not committing to that so won't include it in my calculations - it can cover for when I forget myself and enjoy a long hot shower) Sharing a shower usually takes a little longer than showering alone but I estimate we are roughly saving 50L of water per day when Eva showers (~20L heated).  Lets say that's five nights a week... a total annual water saving of 13,000L per year, a total annual gas saving of 260 units and a total annual carbon reduction of 65kg.

Of course the catch is that when a toddler refuses to get out of the bath the amount of water used doesn't change, but when she refuses to get out of the shower the water keeps gushing down the drain. Yes we do turn it off despite protests but I don't want her to learn that using water responsibly is a painful thing that ruins your fun. Baths have fewer such layers of ethical complication!

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