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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.


The Low-Flow Showerhead Backlash

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: water, water conservation, water effiency, low-flow showerheads, nanny state, American Heritage Institute, environment, Keith Goetzman,

Shower head

Antigovernment conservatives love to complain about the nanny state, and some of them are aiming their ire at a new target: low-flow showerheads.

Over at The Foundry, the blog of the conservative think tank the American Heritage Institute, a freedom-loving correspondent named Kelsey Huber puts her finger on the pernicious nature of these water-efficiency devices:

Of the many microscopic issues in which the Department of Energy (DOE) involves itself, one of the most ridiculous could be showerhead flow-capacity limits. In the name of conservation, a federal law limits the amount of water that can pass through a nozzle to 2.5 gallons per minute. The law was designed to limit both water and energy use related to pumping the water.

Until recently, a loophole that allowed multi-nozzled showerheads (with each individual nozzle meeting the flow-capacity limit) put this personal choice where it belongs: in the hands of consumers. Showerheads with three or even eight nozzles could be purchased by homebuilders to equip luxury bathrooms as long as the per-nozzle water-flow limit was followed. Regrettably, the DOE decided that alternatives to the standard showerhead could no longer be allowed and, in May, sought to close the legal gap. A redefinition of showerheads is expected.

Dictating the amount of water that is to be used in a shower has little bearing on energy policy and opens the door to far more invasive measures. If the DOE can limit the energy used in showering, it could just as easily involve itself in legislating how much energy any appliance can use, how long it can be used each day, or what kind of electronics can be sold.

You’ll have to forgive me for failing to realize that our very rights are at stake here. Even though I already had a low-flow showerhead, I recently was offered a free one with even lower flow through a state- and city-supported energy efficiency program. Foolishly, I took the bait, and though I still can’t tell the difference in the shower, apparently I’ve started down the slippery slope toward complete state control of my life.

I supposed I should have followed the lead of one of Huber’s readers, “Jay,” who decided not to stand for this dictatorial state of bathroom affairs and took matters into his own hands.

“It takes about five seconds to make your shower head a full-flow head,” he wrote in a response comment. “I did it to mine and whenever I have purchased a new one I fix it as well. My water bill is MY business.”

Want to really make a statement, Jay? Equip your luxury shower with eight full-flow heads and take a half-hour shower every day. While you’re at it, turn your hose on full blast and let it run down the gutter. Leave your car idling while you sleep. And finally, make sure to pour your old motor oil into a hole in your backyard. Take that, nanny.

Source: The Foundry

Image by stevendepolo, licensed under Creative Commons.