Recycling showers: Water science fiction?


Utah’s water use is the highest in the nation. Reducing water consumption is simple. You can take simple steps to reduce your water consumption by taking shorter showers, watering your lawn one less time each week, or by washing your clothes only when they need to be washed. But what about ways to save water without even doing anything?

Advances in technology have been a huge benefit to humans’ water usage. In 1992 the Energy Policy Act was passed. Before 1992 water fixtures used at least three times as much water. If you live in a home that was built after 1992 or have replaced faucets, shower heads, or toilets since then, you, without any special effort, are using less water. These are win-win situations in the water conservation world.

As we look to the future of water conservation we look to technology to help us use water wisely. The way water usage is counted is through meters. There are two ways to reduce water usage: suck less water through our meters or reuse water that has already been counted. One area with great potential for the reuse of water within the home is the shower. In most sci-fi movies that take place in space you will see they have showers on their spacecraft. How can this be? Why would they take showers in space where there is no renewable source of water? Do they discharge the “used” water into space? The answer is simple: they use a recycling system.

Recycling showers! Taking a daily shower uses more water and energy than any other daily indoor water use. Low-flow shower heads have done wonders in reducing the amount of water used while showering. However, the shower with a low-flow head still has the hot water and all the energy used to heat the water flowing down the drain. Not only did we use energy to heat the water, but also energy to treat the water both before and after human consumption. A recycling shower can save 10,000–20,000 gallons of water a year and an estimated 3,000 kilowatt hours for a household with two people showering daily. This is estimated based on the fact that recycling showers use 70% less water than a traditional shower and 40–70% less energy since the system does not have to heat as much water.

So how does a recycling shower work? The figure above shows that water flows into a mixer near the shower head. The mixer uses new water (30%) and recycled water (70%). The recycled water is sent through a pump to a hydro-cyclone where solids are sent down the drain with 30% of the used water. The recycled water now flows through a filter to remove smaller solid particles. The water is then heated to kill the remaining bacteria. Once the water has been heated again the recycled water is sent to the mixer.


Eric Jones

Eric Jones, P.E., has been working for the Division of Water Resources for four years in the Water Conservation and Education section. He loves Utah and the limitless possibilities for its lands and people. He is married to a wonderful woman that tolerates his unique views on life and their future. Together they have two wonderful children that bring meaning to the work Eric has been performing at the Division. Eric has investigated several issues facing the water conservation efforts of the Division and water providers throughout Utah. Including the cost of water, M&I water use rates, water efficiency rates of the state’s colleges and universities, and how to have a beautiful landscape while using water efficiently. Eric enjoys working for the people of Utah and hopes to be an efficient force in helping Utah reduce their water consumption by 25% before 2025.

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