Weeing in the Shower

Black and white showerhead

Two students at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom made news recently by proposing significant water savings by skipping going to the toilet when they wake up and ‘spending their first penny’ in the shower.

It is an awkward subject, but we are willing to tackle the difficult issues around efficient use of water. The obvious point is that water from the shower and the water from your toilet both end up at the same place… at the sewage treatment plant.

We are not qualified to provide health advice but according to NSW Health there are potential health risks. “While urine in a healthy person is sterile, some bladder infections may pass microorganisms in urine. However, the potential for these organisms to survive and cause infection is considered remote.”

What is clear however is if you wee in the shower then that water is no longer considered greywater, so you can’t use the water on your garden.

weeing in the shower comic

Thanks to Mick for this cartoon, see more of his work at http://cartoonmick.wordpress.com/editorial-political/

Taking a different tack, we got the calculator out, and found the idea generates a number of very relevant considerations.

Firstly, how much water will you save? It depends on a number of factors:

  1. How much water does your toilet use? An old fashioned single flush might use 11 litres for each flush, while a modern toilet could get away with as little as 3 litres for a half flush. Based on these figures over a whole year you might save between 1500 litres or 4000 litres each year. At over $3/kl that comes to between $5 and $13 in the cost of water.
  2. How much water does your shower use? If you spent a little longer in the shower after “spending a penny” you could use between 7.5 and 16 litres for each extra minute. Frankly if you took into account the energy to heat the water you would be worse off after one minute of extra showering.

For $13 a year, I would be happy to stick to the conventional toilet. Especially if you look at some other very simple things you could do in your bathroom, based on upgrading from old, pre-millennium drought appliances.

  1. How efficient is your showerhead? Upgrading to a modern showerhead will save 15,000 litres annually which is 10 times as much as “spending that first penny” in the shower rather than the toilet.
  2. How efficient is your toilet? If you have an old single flush toilet you can save 22,000 litres annually which is 15 times as much as spending the penny in the shower.
  3. On the grounds that you have a washing machine in your bathroom (well some people do) front loaders are fantastically water efficient and can save 14,000 litres annually.
  4. And for a truly Australian option, have you heard one third of all households in this wide brown land own a rainwater tank? Rainwater tanks provide between 40,000 and 90,000 litres of rainwater each year if they are connected to indoor (toilet, washing machine) and outdoor (gardening, washing) uses.

We have heard all sorts of call ins to radio stations on this one, from wee preventing tinea on your feet to hardening calluses. What do you think?

  • Tomi

    I do sometimes pee in the shower whenever appropriate but not on purpose. It did occur to me that I could be saving a bit of water by doing so but not doing it conscientiously. The mindset should be about saving water, our precious natural resource, not about saving money. Sometimes it may instead be more costly to recycle rather than not recycle. It is about our mindset to save, reuse and recycle, not so much about the cost. Hence, no matter how small the cost savings is (ie, $13/yr), we should still be doing our bit for the environment, especially when there is always a shortage of water in the Australian climate.

  • Hi Tomi, thanks for the feedback and we agree water is a wonderful and precious resource. One of the things we worked out is that it would really only be a saving if you spent no longer in the shower than you otherwise would. If you spent even 1 minute longer in the shower than there would be no benefit.

  • Mellem

    This is the problem with the consumers. When water is cheap, people do not bother to save and not to mention, investing in expensive water efficient/water saving taps and fittings.

  • Hi Mellem, its about $25 for a set of aerator retrofit flow restrictors for taps. Estimated savings are 13,000 litres/year/household. Assuming you are paying around $3/KL thats a $39 saving in the first year. Even at these relatively cheap water prices water efficient taps have a payback of less than one year. It would be faster if you had a larger household, much slower if you are in the country and are only paying $1-$2 for water. kind regards

  • Melanie Ball

    With regard to saving toilet water, the simplest and most sensible answer is to only flush when you do a poo, as in the saying, if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down, or similar. Or flush only every few pees. Saves many litres per day.

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  • Stephen H

    There’s a downside — your pee may interact with the gunk in the pipe below your shower outlet drain, and after a few months start to smell.

  • Tom Meakin

    I reckon I’ve got the best solution. I take a bucket into the shower and collect the water that would otherwise go down the drain while getting the temperature right. If I feel the urge to pee in the shower, the bucket gets it. Then, at night, I pee in the bucket and the next day our citrus gets beautiful diluted urea. And my wife does the same. Takes a bit more practice for a lady to perfect this