Dear Umbra,

On a link that I got from Grist’s Do Good section, it says that taking baths instead of showers conserves water. What’s the logic behind this? I measured how much water I use when I shower, and it’s about a quarter of the amount that I use for baths. So it doesn’t make much sense that bathing conserves more water than showering. Am I just weird or is there another reason?

Jesse Ross-Silverman
Northampton, Mass.

Dearest Jesse,

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I’m not the best judge of your weirdness. First, I know next to nothing about you, and second, I’m a little weird myself. Luckily, your weirdness is in no way directly related to the water flow in your pipes.

Shower power.

I have a radical answer to your question: Trust your own judgment. The World Resources Institute’s “Reduce Reuse Recycle” list, where you found the bath/shower puzzler, exists to offer suggestions for reducing resource consumption. On any such list, you will find recommendations that are old hat to you, as well as wholly new conservation ideas.

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For example, the WRI site suggests that you “use the back of discarded paper for scratch paper.” Many of us might think: “Uh, duh!” However, there is clearly some weirdo out there to whom this basic conservation idea has never occurred. The suggestion is aimed at that weirdo, not at us weirdos.

It may be that you are not the type of weirdo to whom the bathing exhortation is aimed.

Maybe the WRI bath suggestion is a typo or math error, or perhaps research shows that the general public takes very long, high-flow showers that use more water than the average bath. In other words, if you’re already conservation-minded, you might be taking shorter, lower-flow showers than many people.

The point is, it doesn’t matter why WRI suggests baths over showers. In this case, the expert is unnecessary. You can believe your own eyes and tailor your water conservation choices to your own habits. If you measured the water after showering and the water after bathing, and you did it in a rigorous and scientific way (do it again if you stood in the water during one measurement and not during the other), you know how much water you use for each. WRI certainly has no idea how high the water stands after your ablutions. Please, trust yourself, and proceed with your own water-conserving personal hygiene regimen.


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