On the odd occasion that this alternative showering method comes up in conversation (you know, in shower optimization workshops, and the like), we get some varied responses. Some people say it's cool, while others recoil in disbelief, as we show ourselves to be the living embodiment of their fears of frugality: people who deny themselves even the very basics just to save a nickel. So, why don't we act like normal people and just leave the water running?
First, some context...
As you know, we live in a desert, where water is scarce. In Arizona, we get our water from four main sources: surface water (lakes, rivers, streams), the Colorado River (separated out as it's a unique case), groundwater (where 43% of our water comes from), and reclaimed water (treated waste water used for agriculture, golf courses, parks, etc.) (Source: AZ Department of Water Resources). Of these four sources, only reclaimed water is increasing, and that's unfortunately due to our own population increases and the corresponding increase in water use. When you use more water, the silver lining is that the city gets more waste water. Our state is currently pumping out groundwater more quickly than it can be replenished, the term for which is particularly financial sounding: "overdraft". The Colorado River is shared by many western states, as well as Mexico, for their water needs, but this arrangement has the possibility for water conflicts in the future. And since our climate is particularly hot, surface water availability varies a lot, though storage reservoirs help mitigate this risk.
Who is using all this water?
Please click on this link again and flip to the pie chart on the last page of the document. It shows that 70% of Arizona's water is going towards agriculture. While we flip the bird to the Creator to say, "Hey, eff you buddy, we can grow crops in a desert," a full seven tenths of the water available is being used to cultivate lettuce, cotton, citrus, and to quench the thirst of cows (our leading agricultural product). Obviously, less water could be used to grow the same crops and cows elsewhere. As for the rest, 8% of the water is used for industrial purposes, and 22% goes to residential use.
For a little more context, here is exactly how much water goes towards agriculture: 4.4 million acre-gallons of water, every year. Never heard of an acre-gallon? Me, neither.
One acre-gallon is 325,841 gallons. A single acre-gallon is estimated to be sufficient to meet the water needs of a family of five, for an entire year. Let's bust out the calculator.
4.4 million acre-gallons
1,433,744,400,000 gallons, every year, in just my state, and only for agriculture.
Back to Showers...
While the amount of water being used to grow crops in the desert might make me doubt the benefits of eating locally, there's not a whole lot I can do about it as an individual consumer. What I can focus on is my part of the consumption: the twenty two percent being used by residents. Navy showers can save up to 15,000 gallons per person, per year, compared to a conventional shower. Sure, that is a paltry amount compared to the total water usage and doesn't likely result in huge savings, either. (It looks like a year of navy showers would only save us about $90, as a couple.) But it does help, and it is more efficient, and like CashRebel says, efficiency is beautiful.
Here are a couple other water saving tips we use:
- Give your dishes a navy shower, too. Get them all wet, turn the faucet off to soap & scrub them all, then give one rinse at the end.
- Integrate native trees & plants that need infrequent watering.
- Water plants deeply & less frequently. This uses less water overall and adapts plants to sustain longer periods of drought.
*Photo is from PhotoAtelier at Flickr Creative Commons.
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