A popular bumper sticker in the 1970's, when conservation first became chic, read, "Save water - Shower with a friend." I wouldn't begin to suggest such a thing now, in the considerably more prudish 21st Century, but we could save a lot of water, and a lot of GHG emissions by showering with low-flow shower-heads.
I know, I know. Apparently the three scariest words in the English language are 'low flow shower-head.' Most Americans, upon hearing those words, react roughly the same as Kramer in a particularly funny Seinfeld episode entitled, appropriately enough, Low flow shower-head.
Fortunately, things have changed. Technology, as it occasionally does when it isn't making things worse, has made this situation a lot better. There have been remarkable improvements in water pressure from low-flow shower-heads in recent years.
One such fixture, the Alsons model 656 shower-head (available from Amazon.com and elsewhere for just over $20) produces an extremely satisfying shower using only 1.85 gallons of water per minute (GPM). I installed one in my guest bathroom as an experiment and it has turned out to be the most powerful shower in the house.
Older shower-heads, pre-1992, often used 5.5 GPM or more.
If a family of four switched to 1.85 GPM shower-heads they could save as much as 42,000 gallons of water per year. Using an average cost for water of $.008 per gallon, that's a cost saving of $341 per year.
Now, here's where it gets interesting. Three-quarters of the water used for showering comes from your hot water heater. That means roughly 30,000 fewer gallons need to be heated. The average cost to heat a gallon of water is about 5 cents. So the energy cost savings from switching shower-heads could be as much as $1,566 per year. That's a total cost savings of roughly $1,900 per year for water and energy. And a net emissions reduction of 6,155 lbs of CO2. Not a bad return on investment for a couple of $20 shower-heads!
Now, think globally. There are roughly 112 million households in the US. If ten percent of them switched to low-flow shower-heads it would reduce annual CO2 emissions by over 32 million tons, the equivalent of removing 5.7 million cars from the road. It would also save nearly half a trillion gallons of water per year.
One of our best friends in fighting climate change could turn out to be the lowly shower-head. So, go ahead, shower with a friend. You'll get just as clean and your conscience will get a little cleaner.