Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Water Conservation, Kiwi Style

As I anticipated in visiting New Zealand, that's a country that knows how to conserve. The economy is so tied into agriculture and tourism that "going green" seemed more the norm than the rule. As when I lived in Germany, we had to pay $0.10 for any bags we needed at the grocery store (the best incentive I know for getting people to remember the reusable bags languishing in the back of their car. When is it finally going to be instituted here?) and low-cost public transit in the form of the Link Bus went everywhere you needed to be in Auckland.

But what I REALLY liked was the automatic shower cut offs at the campsites. Living in our drought condition state, we save shower water in buckets while it's warming up, to pour on the plants, and I save the cooking water in a big pot on the stove for the same purpose. We follow the "if it's yellow" rule when it's just us at home, and never ever run water when we're brushing our teeth.

But showering is our downfall. Try as I might to keep the kids to 5 minutes in the shower, I'm the worst transgressor. Putting a timer outside the bathroom to ring doesn't work, because you can't see the time left and you can ignore it anyway. The timers I've found to stick inside the shower to show you how much time you have left are imported from Australia and how much carbon would I burn getting one here?

But at Kiwi campsites, you get 8 minutes and then the water just shuts off. To take a long shower, you have to exit the shower stall, tromp across the common area to press a button, and then walk back to your shower. What a pain. The sense of urgency that comes with knowing the water will turn off at any moment is a powerful thing; whenever we showered there, we actually finished up in 5 minutes or so.

There was a great article in the Chron's Home and Garden section today on water-wise tools, and I'm going to check some of them out. I'm particularly intrigued by the Evolve Roadrunner showerhead:
This low-flow showerhead must be an impostor. Not only does it look like a higher-priced full-flow water hog but its pressure feels like one, too. Its "showerstart" technology senses when the water warms up and decreases the flow to a trickle until you pull a cord, resuming the flow of hot water. The hot water waits for you instead of running down the drain.

But what I really dream of is a shower that says "enough's enough!" (preferably in a Kiwi accent) and means it.

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