You’ve heard that advice before: you shall pee in the shower (hashtag GoWithTheFlow 😀) to save water.
Some even go the extra mile…
… but I’m not sure I’d advise you to do so. ⬆️
Let’s review how to save water, if peeing in the shower makes a difference, and generally speaking the impact of agricultural and industrial uses of water.
Table of contents
- Peeing in the Shower Saves Water
- Water is hidden everywhere around us!
- We wear more Water than we drink
- Invisible Industrial Water Everyhwere
- Relative Water Impacts of Industries Worldwide
- How to Save Water with the “3Rs”
- The impact of “Grey Water”
- The Water we waste in Food
- Conclusion: How to Save Water?
- BONUS: What’s another way to save water in the shower?
Peeing in the Shower Saves Water
Why does that help to save water? Simple. If you take one pee per day in the shower, that’s one time less you flush the toilet.
As you’re trying to save water, I’ll assume that you’re already equipped with a dual flush system. So a small flush would cost you 3 liters of water.
Let’s do the maths: saving one of these flushes per day, year-long, enables you to save 365 times three liters, aka about 1’100 liters.
Congrats! Let’s reward yourself: screw your 2022 resolutions, have a chocolate square; that one’s on me.
Did you enjoy it? Ok, now let’s look at what we just did.
Water is hidden everywhere around us!
One chocolate square is about 6g of chocolate. And to produce this 6 g involved… 115 liters of water!
So, if you went for two bars of chocolate instead of just one square, you simply consumed more water than the entire volume you saved by peeing in the shower for the rest of the year.
Shall you stop peeing in the shower? I’d say no; a drop you save is a drop saved. But in the bigger scheme of things, it’s maybe about time to notice all this invisible water that’s hovering around us.
I had this discussion on my podcast with Mina Guli, the CEO of Thirst, one of Fortune’s 50 greatest leaders in the World, and an ultra-runner… that doesn’t enjoy running!
We wear more Water than we drink
Here’s what she shared:
Just one outfit took more water to make than the entire water you’ll drink in your whole lifetime.Mina Guli
Crazy right? But is this true?
Let’s check with the help of the Water Footprint Network’s data.
That day, I was wearing:
- A red shirt made at 55% out of cotton and 45% out of polyester. That’s a 9400 liters impact.
- I had a leather belt for an additional 3’000 liters impact.
- I was sporting my blue trousers – hey, don’t judge my style – which have a 4’200 liters impact.
- And I had socks and underpants for an additional 5’300 liters.
Altogether, that is a 22’000 liters impact. Quite a lot, but still not that much, as I was running the interview from home, so I wasn’t wearing shoes or a jacket.
How much water do we drink in a Lifetime?
You’ll be surprised at how difficult it is to find a definitive number as to how much you shall drink in a day.
(And because I looked up that info, I now even receive Harvard ads to sell me… their 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating.)
But let’s not get side-tracked: I went for the highest end of the bell curve of answers, aka, three liters of water per day.
I’m french and was born in 1988, so my life expectancy is 72.3 years. That makes for a total water I’ll drink in my lifetime of about 79’200 liters.
Let’s compare: my outfit on the interview day had an impact of 22’000 liters, and I’ll drink about four times more in my life.
So Mina was wrong!
Wait, was she?
Invisible Industrial Water Everyhwere
What else do we see next to me during the interview? I had my headphones on; look who’s wearing about 10’000 liters of water?
My smartphone in my right pocket, that’s another 13’000 liters of water to produce.
I had printed Pollination’s report, 83 pages printed on both sides, that’s 42 sheets of paper and 480 liters of water.
And yes, I wasn’t wearing my shoes, but I have to confess that I own some shoes that I would normally wear. So let’s stop cheating and add them to the calculation: that’s 8’000 liters more.
I could continue doing this for hours and calculate the footprint of my microphone, lights, camera, sound table, or this adorable Water Show mug. But have a look at my desk. Don’t you feel I’m missing the elephant in the room?
And the champion is: Laptops!
Or rather, the elephantS with an “S,” because there are two laptops on my desk. Each of them weighting about 330’000 liters of water.
Said differently, each of them consumed more water to produce than my wife, two daughters, and I will drink in a lifetime.
Now besides the fact that Mina was, of course, right, what does this tell us?
Relative Water Impacts of Industries Worldwide
Well, it reminds us of our relative water impact. Worldwide, domestic water uses account for 10% of the total freshwater withdrawals. Industry weights a further 20%, and the remaining 70% goes to agriculture.
Yet, that’s an average. Because if you have the luxury to choose if you’d rather pee in your shower than flush your toilets, it also means that you’re equipped with both of them and connected to the water network and the sewer.
And if you recall the World’s current progress towards Water and Sanitation for all, that’s still far from being obvious.
Different situations in distinct geographies
To give you some examples, in the US 47% of freshwater goes to Industrial Uses, In Germany it’s 80%, in the Netherlands, 92% and the world champion is Estonia with 97%!
So how can we save water, now that we realize this?
How to Save Water with the “3Rs”
Well, we can leverage the “3Rs”
First by reducing our consumption: for instance by not falling victim to fast fashion, or feeling the urge to change our iPhone every year.
Then by reusing and recycling to keep the green and blue waters in the manufactured goods.
What’s these, you ask? It’s two of the three compounds of our water footprint: blue is the surface or groundwater incorporated in the products around us, and green is the water coming from the sky through precipitations. And as long as we keep reusing and recycling, this water is still “alive” and valuable!
To put these “3 Rs” in perspective, every time you avoid buying a new smartphone, that’s the equivalent of peeing in the shower every single day for 12 years.
The impact of “Grey Water”
So I just mentioned “blue water” and “green water,” but what about the last one? Well, that one’s a bit more tricky: it’s the amount of fresh water required to assimilate and dilute the pollutants the industry or agriculture releases to the environment.
To limit this impact, you shall better treat industrial wastewaters or improve the dosing of pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture, but that’s too much and too important of a topic to just swipe through in two minutes; I’ll keep it for a future deep dive.
The Water we waste in Food
For today, let’s look at a last way to save water and reduce our impact. Beyond not buying new clothes every second week or a new smartphone every second year, there’s a last place where we can all have a huge water impact, and that happens in our kitchens.
I’ll not insist too much on how meat has much more of an impact than vegetables. I’m not a vegan myself, so I would not have the audacity to advise you on something I don’t apply to me.
I’d rather highlight this number: we waste, depending on the estimates, between 30 and 50% of the food we produce every year. That’s about two billion tonnes of food!
Remember that agriculture is the primary user of water in the World, with the 70% share I mentioned earlier. Even on the lowest estimate, that food we simply waste represents 15% of the World’s water use.
That’s 550 000 billion liters – a five and another five, followed by 13 zeros – of water that’s purely wasted every year. And I’m not talking of any other parameter than water; because others do that better than me.
Conclusion: How to Save Water?
That’s also the equivalent of 500 billion people peeing in the shower every single day of the year. That’s about 63 times more people peeing in the shower than the current number of earth’s inhabitants.
Isn’t that the coolest shower thought ever for your next pee there?