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Shower often, please, but make them short
Nebraska and Kansas may be at odds over water in the Republican River, but they should be able to agree on one thing: water is not something to be wasted.
It took a while for consumers, and manufacturers to adjust to the new low-flow toilet requirements, but there seem to be more effective models on the market now. Fans of the Seinfeld television series probably remember Jerry's bad hair, resulting from new low-flow shower heads mandated for his apartment building, and Kramer's solution: a shower head intended for elephants.
But as precious as water is in Southwest Nebraska, including the water that receives expensive treatment in McCook's water plant, there's no reason to use more than we really need.
We'd like to see more xerascaping -- landscaping that requires little water -- and lawns which require little water around McCook, but the irony is that the city depends on the sale of water to keep its enterprise fund for water on an even keel.
There's plenty of incentive for individual water customers to conserve water, however -- and it shows, through the number of homeowners who have simply allowed their bluegrass lawns to die.
McCook set record highs this weekend -- 106 Friday and Saturday, and 105 Sunday, breaking records set as long ago as the 1930s -- so we certainly wouldn't want to discourage anyone from bathing.
But there's no reason to use more water than we really need to get ourselves clean.
According to the American Water Works Association, our showers last an average of eight minutes.
Use an older shower head -- and you'll send 48 to 64 gallons of water down the drain. Spend a luxurious 15 minutes, and you'll use 90 to 120 gallons.
New regulations enacted in 1994 require showerheads to use no more than 2.5 gallons per minute. That cuts that eight-minute shower to only 20 gallons, and that 15-minute shower to 37 gallons. That translates to a saving on 44 gallons per eight-minute shower, or more than 16,000 gallons a year if you shower every day.
Sharon Skipton and Bruce Dvorak of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension point out that the most water-efficient showerheads carry the WaterSense label. That means they use no more than 2 gallons per minute, or 16 gallons for an eight-minute shower, or 30 gallons for a 15-minute shower.
That means even more savings if you have one of those "human car washes" that have multiple showerheads and nozzles, which became popular in recent years. Recently, many manufacturers modified these shower systems so that only one part of the system can be operated at a time.
Whatever shower you use, you can save water by taking shorter showers, shutting off water while soaping-up or shampooing, or installing a showerhead with a quick shut-off lever that allows you to turn the water on and off without adjusting the temperature.
That also can result in a lower gas or electric bill, depending on the type of water heater you use. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that domestic water heating accounts for between 15 and 25 percent of the energy consumed in homes, with showering or bathing often being a major component.
Changing shower habits, as well as the shower equipment you use, will help leave a little more room in the budget as well as conserve our most precious commodity.