Showers use less water than baths; plus more ways to be clean and green

The average shower uses less than a third of the water required to fill a bathtub, but there are many other ways people can save water and add more green products to their bathrooms, showers and linen closets.

QUESTION: Which uses less water, a shower or a bath? This has been an ongoing debate in my home. Asked by Anonymous, Northridge, Calif.

ANSWER: To be completely honest, the shower vs. bath debate hasn’t been on my mind for the past four years. Most dorms don’t have bathtubs, and when they are present, you can’t help but wonder if you’ll actually come out of them any cleaner. But I do occasionally yearn for a long luxurious bath. You bring up the crucial question: can we justify a long soak in the tub?

A shower uses a fraction of the water a bath does. If you use a low-flow showerhead, you can reward yourself with a nice, long bath once a month. (Image courtesy of atconc/Flickr)

Unfortunately, unless you’re taking 20-minute showers—more on that later—baths just can’t measure up in terms of water usage. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a full bathtub requires about 70 gallons of water, while taking a five-minute shower uses 10 to 25 gallons. You might argue that very few people fill the tub to the top, but a simple calculation shows that either way, baths use more water. If you’re still unconvinced, try stopping the drain during your next shower to measure the amount of water you use. Then compare that to the amount you use for a bath. Chances are, you’ll find the same result: showers save water.

A WaterSense label guarantees that a product is 20 percent more water efficient than the average product in its category.

But let’s not stop there. We can save even more water and money with another small adjustment: the low-flow showerhead. If every household installed one of these water-saving wonders, the United States could reduce its annual water consumption by 250 billion gallons, according to the EPA. This adds up to a $1.5 billion savings on water bills across the nation. Tack on the energy savings from heating less water and low-flow showerheads become extra appealing. Check out the EPA’s WaterSense program to find out more, including where to find more efficient showerheads: those that use 2.0 gallons per minute or less instead of the standard 2.5 gallons per minute.

A WaterSense label guarantees that a product is 20 percent more water efficient than the average product in its category.

Worried that the lower flow will reduce the quality of your shower? Both the EPA’s performance criteria and I can assure you this will not be the case. When Stanford switched to low-flow showerheads halfway through my freshman year, I hardly noticed the difference. When you do make the switch, any qualms you might have about lower water pressure or the cost of a new showerhead will soon be calmed the water, energy and money you’ll save.

Honestly, going low-flow is a no-brainer. But here’s one more incentive: By using a low-flow showerhead, you might even be able to justify a relaxing bath every once in a while. If you take a six-minute shower with a low-flow showerhead, you’ll save at least three gallons of water each time you shower rather than take a bath. Let’s assume that you fill up the tub about halfway when you bathe. Then every 12 showers you take saves enough water for one bath—about 36 gallons. If you only take one bath each month, you’ll still be saving tons of water, so you can enjoy your reduced-guilt baths even more!

Read More: There are many other ways to be clean and green. From shaving to bath towels and shower curtains, SAGE discovered the most eco-friendly options.

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5 Comments

  1. says: August West

    “showers save water.”

    Lots to learn, young naive students.

    They do not save anything.

    You just use less.

    Did someone with a pulse actually have to approve this post being published? Completely inane.

  2. says: August West

    Oh no, faux esseff hipster alert!!

    This blog is utterly useless – just trying to push nonsense content to mix in with the blatantly political stuff at the “Inthepeninsula” blog.

    No wonder no one reads or comments…

  3. says: Christi

    yes – there is a larger perspective though. It is easy to think of our consumption as the amount used within the household, but you have to factor in the water used in industrial and agricultural production in our country. This is the main factor that creates our larger use of energy or water from indigenous or 3rd world areas.
    I have friends who moved to farmland in the central valley, and I was able to watch irrigation of wheat, rice and alfalfa fields. The volumes are so larger that a few gallons in a shower would be nothing in comparison. But you have to remember that this agricultural use should still be included in everyone’s per capita water use. e.g. many people could stop showering entirely, but these large uses would keep the state’s total usage of water from the Sierras very high

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