There is no universally recommended length of shower to take to conserve water. For maximum conservation, if you shower daily, Water Conservation News & Tips recommends taking a 5-minute shower at least 5 days per week. You can also take a variety of steps, from upgrading old hardware to using a timer to gradually reducing your shower time, to conserve water.
The average American household uses 17 percent of its indoor water for bathing, according to the Portland Water Bureau. This is the third-highest use of water in the household, after toilets and washing machines. Conserving water by reducing your shower time can greatly reduce your household’s water bill.
Conserving water is particularly important in dry climates or dry seasons and during droughts, to prevent depletion of the community’s water resources. Water conservation preserves habitat necessary for animal, plant and human survival, reduces pollutant runoff from fertilized lawns, prevents or delays the need to build additional reservoirs or treatment plants and decreases the use of energy to treat water.
The Portland Water Bureau notes that showerheads manufactured in the United States now are required by law to use 2.5 gallons of water or less per minute. Efficient, super low-flow showerheads are also available that use as little as 1.25 gallons per minute. Older showerheads may use 5 gallons of water or more per minute. Replace old showerheads to conserve water, even if you don’t reduce your shower time.
Use a timer to set a limit for your shower, and stick to it. To ease into water conservation, reduce your shower time by one minute each week for a month. According to Water—Use It Wisely, shortening your shower by just a minute or two can save up to 150 gallons per month. If you reduce your shower time gradually, aim for the goal set by the Portland Water Bureau. It describes efficient shower times as no more than 5 minutes for a 5-gallon-per-minute showerhead, no more than 10 minutes for a 2.5-gallon-per-minute showerhead and no more than 20 minutes for a 1.5 gallon per minute showerhead.
To lengthen your time in the shower without using additional water, Eartheasy suggests you turn off the showerhead to soap up and shampoo, and turn it back on to rinse. You can brush your teeth, wash your face or shave during the time you might normally spend just standing in the shower. While the shower water warms up, catch it in a bucket; use this extra water to flush toilets or water your houseplants or garden.
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Erica Leigh has been writing and editing professionally since 2005, contributing to a technology and education nonprofit, renewable energy companies and various websites. Leigh holds bachelor's degrees in anthropology and linguistics from the University of Washington.