Water Wise - Low Flow Shower Head

Arizonans have long known that water is our most precious natural resource. Area residents presently enjoy a reliable, relatively inexpensive supply of high quality water. However, water use has begun to exceed water recharge in some areas of the county, generating concern about depleting water resources. To ensure adequate water supplies for the future, all of us need to be more water wise.

Cado Daily, Water Conservation Educator with the Water Wise program shares with us one of the questions she has received from a local caller. Residents are encouraged to call Cado at The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Office (458-8278, Ext. 2141) for advice on water conservation and landscape design. Free on-site consultations are available.

Question: I've heard that with a low-flow shower head I can save 40 gallons of water if say, I take a 10 minute shower. How do I know if I have a low-flow shower head?

Answer: If you own a newer home (built after 1990) and no one has tinkered with the plumbing, then you'll have a low-flow shower head as well as low-flow sink faucets and toilets (1.6 gal/flush). Older homes may have the 7 GPM (gallons per minute) shower heads. If you have a low flow shower head, you may also see 2.5 GPM written on it. If all of this fails to tell you your GPM, then do a simple test with a bucket. Turn on your shower full force and put the bucket under it (make sure to catch all the spray!) for 15 seconds. Measure the amount of water in the bucket and multiply that amount by 4. That will tell you your GPM, or if you can't hold the bucket up for 15 seconds, you have the "Niagara Falls" type shower head! All the showerheads, sink faucets, and toilets now sold conform to the National Standard of 2.5 GPM for showers, faucets, and 1.6 GP flush for toilets. If you have a "Niagara Falls" type shower head, go find yourself another kind and choose any type (massage, dial-a-spray, etc.) that tickles your fancy!

Tip: Some shower heads include (or you can easily screw on) a "shut-off" valve. With a flick of a finger you can temporarily shut off the water flow while soaping up, and then flick it back to full flow with the temperature staying the same! Stores also carry a "shut-off" valve for sinks-great for teeth brushing, shaving, washing vegetables...

Seventy-five percent of your in home water use occurs in the bathroom. The following practices can save you up to 20,000 gallons per year:

  • Check your toilet for leaks (put food coloring in the tank)
  • Place a plastic bottle(s) in your toilet tank or install a low-flow toilet
  • Take shorter, 5-minute showers
  • Install a low-flow shower or a plastic insert flow restrictor
  • Don't let the water run unnecessarily while brushing your teeth, washing your hands, shaving or soaping up in the shower

The Water Wise program is provided courtesy of the Cochise County, City of Sierra Vista, Arizona Water Company, Bella Vista Water Company, Pueblo Del Sol Water Company and Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative in conjunction with The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.


January, 1998