How long are your showers?

My first semester at Bucknell I took a lab science class that focused on sustainability.  For the major project of the semester, each group had to come up with a project affecting the school or community, develop a plan to research the topic and make recommendations or solutions to the school.  My group’s project was to research water usage in showers in residential halls around campus.  We used an instrument to measure the flow of each shower head in Swartz Hall and found that there was not much that could be done through switching shower heads that would save significant amounts of water and energy.

Three years later, during my last semester at Bucknell, I walked around the PERC Sustainability Symposium and stumbled upon a poster that explored low-flow shower heads in residential halls.  The poster at the symposium had details that brought me back to the research that I had conducted with my group during my project on low-flow shower heads.  This poster had statistics that showed we could as a community save large amounts of water in our residential halls through a minuscule investment.  This study at the symposium assumed that people would take twenty-five, eight minute showers in a thirty day period.  Calculating the difference between a traditional shower head and a low-flow shower head, the researcher found that we could reduce our water usage by almost half.

I found the results of this project to be very interesting as I had conducted the same project three years earlier.  If I remember correctly, our conclusion was that the shower heads in Swartz hall were already relatively low-flow shower heads.  As a result, the difference would not be large enough to explain a change in shower heads.  It seems that a different project on the same topic yielded different results, which I think is interesting and provides an interesting lesson.  Just because one study on a topic yields one result doesn’t mean that five other studies on the same topic will yield the same result.

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