07.18.13Alan Harris

Water Conservation Confessions of a College Girl (Pt. 1)

Water Conservation in 5-4-3-2-1Water conservation comes in many forms from smart controllers for the outdoors to 5 minute showers indoors.


Water conservation comes in many shapes and sizes from large commercial solutions to commitments in your personal life. Water conservation devices like ET based irrigation controllers, flow sensors and rotating stream nozzles can help you be water smart outdoors, but there are also smart water solutions for indoors. Long term readers will remember my water use comment on my daughter’s showers and her witty rebuttal. The following is the story of her water conservation experience while traveling with the UGA Discover Abroad Program.

It was day 19 in New Zealand. After traveling around the entire south island we finally reached our last destination, the town of Kaikoura where we stayed at the Kaikoura Top 10 Holiday Park. But before I share more, you should know Kaikoura is recognized as a Green Globe Community (now EarthCheck). Green Globe is an international program for travelers and tourism industries alike, to minimize their environmental impact. Kaikoura was the first community in the world to achieve Green Globe Certification in 2004. To achieve such status the environmental impact of visitors and locals are measured annually. Part of the measurement is water consumption and quality. This is where my story begins.

I would soon discover what the words “water consumption” really meant and how it would come to affect my time in Kaikoura. After a long day spent outdoors, walking through tide pools and hiking mountains, I looked forward to the end of the day where we returned to our accommodations to clean off and go to bed. Already accustomed to the communal bathrooms, I returned to my small cabin to gather my shower things and make my way over to the shared showers and toilets. I had my shower shoes, my towel, and all the other soapy necessities. I was ready for my shower. Except I wasn’t.

Upon entering the facility, the usual comfort I found in the idea of taking a hot relaxing shower had been taken from me. Feeling as though I must have read the sign wrong, I looked again at the small plastic plaque hanging in the space separating one shower door from the next. All the way down the signs were there, one sign for each shower. This evil sign explained to me what my shower experience would be. In small little black letters it told me:

  • Press the button.
  • Wait one minute for hot water to begin.
  • You will have 5 minutes.
  • A cold burst of water will be your one minute warning.

One minute warning? 5 MINUTES??? Though the words weren’t written, I saw them none the less. There they were mocking me… “water consumption”. Here I was, ready for my steamy end of the day shower and here this sign was telling me, “Do what you can in 5 minutes, but after that I’m only giving you the cold stuff. Have fun!” Of course in my mind, the situation wasn’t simply to do what it said and reduce my shower to 5 minutes. I wanted to find a way to make it longer.

Do you know what a 5 minute shower limits a girl to? Well, from experience I can tell you. After pressing the button, I opened the door to enter the shower area. I stepped into the space, sat my things down on the little bench, and pushed aside the curtain to enter the shower. Turning on the nozzle, I felt the icy glacier water turn into the hot water the sign promised would come.

LET THE RACE BEGIN! Frantically, I reached for the shampoo, quickly lathering my hair. NOW, the body wash, QUICKLY! You’re losing time! Scrub, scrub, scrub, rinse rinse, rinse. Cold burst…. Just like it said it would. 60 short seconds later the ice water came again and the sharpness of the cold hit me like a slap in the face.

Here I was, a soapy mess with this one minute warning. In a hectic attempt to rinse off as best as I could, I had not shaved, nor conditioned my hair. Any chance I had for relaxation had gone down the drain, along with the last of my hot water. (to be continued)


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Alan Harris

Alan Harris is a water management pioneer. With roots in landscape architecture, Alan has worked with irrigation throughout his career experimenting with hydrozones and a variety of high efficiency irrigation systems. Now, over thirty years in the landscape industry, Alan continues to stay apprised of the latest technology even in a sales leadership capacity as our Director of Sales Operations and Regional Sales Leader for our landscape maintenance division. In addition to his contributions to this blog, Alan keeps his hand in water management as a regular contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine.


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  1. Thursday, 9:59 Richard Restuccia

    Bringing awareness to our everyday water consumption is vital to conserving water. I often point out how much water a rotor puts out per minute to customers and they are surprised. In the U.S. in the last 10 years, water consumption per person has been reduced by around 100 gallons per person per day, but the length of time of a shower has remained consistent around 9 minutes. The landscape industry is feeling the pressure to reduce water, but there are lots of other areas we should be examining too. Thanks for pointing this out.

  2. Friday, 12:51 Rodney Stewart

    Hi Alan, we did a research study in Australia on a device that was not this intense but almost. The device beeped loudly after 40 litres (10 gallons) of 38 degree C (100 F) shower water consumption. You had to wait at least 1 minute before the system re-set itself so could not just turn off and then on again. Definitely can save water and energy from these devices but definitely not liked by Teenagers (one of which tried to ripped off the wall). Here are the links to the two papers we completed in this space:

  3. Friday, 1:00 Alan Harris

    @Rodney – no I don’t imagine this would be popular with most teens and probably many adults. I do like the fact temperature is considered in the total delivery. This device could also promote other low flow devices. Personally I would much rather take a 10 minute 1 GPM shower than a 5 minute 2 GPM shower. The ROI under 2 years is pretty impressive.

  4. Friday, 1:09 Alan Harris

    @Richard – yes, every drop counts, but the opportunity to save on irrigation is still much more significant than indoor water use. An average zone on residential irrigation will use 15 – 20 GPM while a modern shower head uses less than 2 GPM. On commercial irrigation systems the GPM per zone doubles. Makes you realize how much water is used to water the landscape. While irrigation is important and in some parts of the country critical to the very survival of the landscape, it is key not to over water which most systems without a smart controller tend to do.

  5. Saturday, 6:11 Gayle Ferris

    Alan, I loved Taylor’s column. May I suggest discouraging her from ever being a passenger on a live aboard sail boat. One Minute Semi Warm shower! Off to the races.

    Cant wait for part two.

  6. Monday, 5:49 Alan Harris

    @Gayle – sounds like a shower on a live aboard sail boat cruise is even tougher than a navy shower. Glad you enjoyed part 1 and part 2 will be posted soon.

  7. [...] a girl do when the 5 minute timer ends and the soothing hot shower comes to an abrupt end? In part 1 my daughter provided background while studying abroad in New Zealand with the UGA Discover Abroad [...]

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