Water Conservation: The Navy Shower


In the Navy the fresh water supply on board is limited. Therefore, those living on a ship or sub must ration water. The “Navy” shower is based on this need. The idea is that the folks on board will only use as much water as is necessary to get wet, lather up, and rinse off. My husband has taken many such showers out of necessity, but I only started taking them as an experiment which began in college.

The typical shower at the college gym had a button that would provide a stream of water. The shower would automatically shut off after 10 to 15 seconds. It was not a luxurious experience but it definitely started turning the wheels in my thrifty little brain. Not only did the shower have the possibility of conserving water, but also energy used to heat the water. I hadn’t given water conservation much thought before using the college gym. I started practicing my own navy showers when I moved off campus.

First, wet your body and hair and turn off the shower. Work shampoo into your hair.
Second, rinse your hair and wet a washcloth then turn off the shower. Work conditioner into your hair. Allow the conditioner to set while you scrub your body with a washcloth and a bar of soap.
Third, once you have cleaned your body, rinse the conditioner out of your hair and the soap off of your body.
It’s very simple and it requires only three streams that needn’t last longer than about 15 seconds.

The typical shower runs about 10 minutes and uses about 60 gallons of fresh water. If you employ the navy shower you can cut that down to about 3 gallons, according to sustainablog. Cutting down water usage has economical as well as ecological benefits, and I have noticed a couple of other benefits that come from taking navy showers.

1) Using Less Shampoo
For whatever reason, when I am standing in a constantly running shower I tend to accidentally wash away more of my shampoo lather and I spend less time thoroughly lathering my scalp. The result was that I would have to fish out the shampoo bottle several times. The navy shower allows me to use less shampoo

2) Quicker showers
When I am taking a navy shower I am all efficiency. I don’t spend time standing motionless and zoned out. I go through the motions more quickly and get out of the shower stall in record time.

3) It changes how you think about your water usage
Our master shower is far away from the water heater and takes a long time to warm up. I cannot stand the idea of fresh water running, unused, down the drain. I fetch a large bucket and fill it with the cold shower water for later use in the laundry. I am far more aware of my water usage now than I ever was in the past and I attribute that to the navy shower.

Now, many people are going to balk at the idea of losing their hot shower, but this is not the only way to conserve water and it’s merely a suggestion. There are sustainability practices that I am unwilling to take up such as using cloth handkerchiefs. Some people will happily use cloth handkerchiefs and others will happily give up long showers. Try this strategy and see if it is something you could do in the long term.


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