02 July, 2015

The Three Minute Shower

I started teaching a class called Greener Gardens for UCLA Extension's Gardening and Horticulture Certificate program over five years ago.  The gist of it has been to have gardens that were less extractive on the ecosystem (a perfect example of this was from an essay written by Own Dell) by choosing plants and practices that use fewer resources.  

A big part of the course is conservation of water - hopefully in a way that does not include creating heat sinks and gravel lawns, ala Turf Busters.  Most of that work is just plain awful, without any kind of design. They seem to be in the business of creating barren front yards that pull in and hold heat which will result in homeowners running their air conditioners more.  Actions like this are poorly thought-out and merely provide cover for those unwilling to actually learn about our environment and the quality of life we lead.  IF that quality of life is to be maintained, we will have to give it a lot more thought and accept compromises that actually work.

When there were only  a few million folks in the Golden State, it was much easier to wiggle by without paying attention.  Now that we are considerably more than the population in the 1930's, logistics demands that we all take notice of the amount of water supplied and how we will allocate it.  

The whole water issue is poorly handled at the state, county and city level.  We also are cursed with those communities that think just throwing money at the problem will make the problem go away. But, while we wait for government to do something intelligent like ban fracking and force Nestle to stop its destruction of our water resources (write your state assemblyperson and your state senator; boycott all things Nestle - and there are a lot of products and product lines owned by Nestle), we all need to do what we can.

These actions, even if small, engender a sense of connectedness and responsibility in those that do them towards our water and it's use.  When we first stated Greener Gardens course, I urged everyone to aim for five minute showers. As the drought has worsened and gone into its fourth year, we now speak of three minute showers.

If you decide to reduce your water footprint with your showers, start with a bucket in the shower to catch the water while it warms.  I removed my round water control handles in favor of handles that are shaped more like an exclamation point.  If I turn the hot water handle to the 'noon' position and the cold to a 5 o'clock position, in a few seconds I will have pretty close to a good showering temperature for me.  As I wait those few seconds, most of the water is caught in the bucket and will be used on my container plants.  

Because not all water is caught in my bucket, I start the timer right after I start the water.  

It is important to use shower heads
that save water too.

With the water with the handles in the right place, I hit the timer button and in a few seconds, I jump in.  Under the water, I shampoo my hair first, leaving the shampoo in, while I soap up my body, scrubbing my face last before I rinse.  Water off, reach out of the shower to the timer: two minutes and ten seconds! I admit, because I knew I was being timed, I worked a little more quickly than I would have normally - on the other hand, when I became aware of that behavior, I consciously slowed myself to make this measurement more valid. 

I don't believe that everyone can shower under three minutes.  Still it's a good goal and we should all work towards it.  If we make water-saving part and parcel in our lives, when we approach government officials and bureaucrats of the water companies, we will do so from the place of someone already participating in the solution.


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