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Utilities Urge Customers To Reduce Water Use In Shower

Programs Offer Free And Reduced High-Efficiency Shower Heads

Hades2k (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The city of Madison is giving away 1,500 high efficiency shower heads Saturday in an effort to reduce water usage.

A number of water utilities around Wisconsin offer rebates on shower heads, faucets or toilets to reduce water consumption. But Madison Water Utility customers don’t have to spend money or fill out a rebate. Madison Water Utility Spokeswoman Amy Barrilleaux said customers can get a high efficiency shower head during this weekend’s giveaway – for free.

“This is a really unusual thing,” she said. “We’ve had our toilet rebate program, but we’ve never just straight up given away more than 1,000 shower heads before.”

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In most homes, showers are the third largest water guzzlers after toilets and clothes washers, according to the Alliance for Water Efficiency.

Frank Miller is superintendent of Cudahy Water Utility and current chair of the Wisconsin section of the American Water Works Association. He said showering can use a significant amount of water.

“The generally accepted studies that are out there, the numbers that people use, showering is 17 percent of the water you use in your household,” he said.

He said depending on where you live, an average family of four uses about 400 gallons of water a day for various uses inside the home and outside. Miller said rebate or shower head giveaways are becoming more common in areas where water supply is an issue.

That’s the situation in Waukesha, where the water supply is tainted with radium.

Dan Duchniak, the general manager of the Waukesha Water Utility, said “water conservation is something that our community is going to need to participate in in order to conserve and properly utilize the resource, the precious resource that we have here.”

In contrast, Madison does have an adequate supply of water, Barrilleaux said. However, at one point officials were concerned.

“We don’t have an urgent issue,” she said. “But at the same time its really important for people to understand that our water supply isn’t infinite. We did have a situation in Madison – we use groundwater where more water was coming out of the aquifer than was going back in. We’ve reversed that over the last 10 years.”

Waukesha’s rebate for same EPA certified shower heads started last month and continues, Duchniak said.

“We just started this program in October and already it looks like we’re going to have 150 shower heads that will be replaced,” he said.

Duchniak said Waukesha is considering ways to expand the conservation program.

“If we’re going to change out shower heads for landlords or provide the shower heads for landlords to change out, they can get into larger buildings and we can get more bang for our buck,” he said.

High-efficiency shower heads can reduce water use, but of course how long one stays in the shower matters too, Miller. said.

Madison’s giveaway of WaterSense shower heads on Saturday will be at Warner Park Community Recreation Center.