Shower relief: dirty habit or green and clean?
Jered Stuffco, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, January 1, 2012 3:32PM EST
TORONTO - A friend recently came to me with a confession: she pees in the shower.
"I don't remember consciously starting to pee in the shower, I always have," she said.
(For the purposes of this article, we'll call her Lisa.)
"It seemed logical. It's a private thing, so how would anyone know it was a bad thing to do?"
Fans of Seinfeld will remember George's public shaming about doing so in their gym's locker room shower, alarming his good friend Jerry.
Likewise, Lisa didn't learn about the supposed bad habit until later in life.
"So it wasn't until I started showering with someone that it became apparent that it was ‘not normal' I guess," she said.
It's pretty clear that Lisa isn't alone. The requisite Facebook search yields plenty of hits, including a pro-shower-peeing group with close to 16,000 public members. And a recent poll from Glamour magazine found that 75 per cent of women said they had peed in the shower at some point.
While there remains some amount of shame around the practice, Canada's water usage is what could be considered more shameful.
To put it mildly, Canadians are water gluttons.
While conservation groups and federal agencies may try to sugarcoat Canada's insanely high water usage in a bid to get Canadians to install water-savers and smart-flushing toilets, the numbers speak volumes.
On the average day, a Canadian uses about 330 litres of water, according to Statistics Canada. And a recent Conference Board of Canada report card gave us a D -- putting us second-last on a chart of 16 developed countries.
"Canada's water consumption is more than double that of the 16-country average," the report stated.
Sure, industries like the oilsands are big water-suckers, but there is no question that domestic use is also sky-high in Canada. Daily showers, dishwashers, toilet use and lawn-watering are obvious drains on fresh water. In fact, our per-capita water use is nine-times higher than in the United Kingdom.
The good news is that Canadians are getting better: our average daily litre usage dropped from 335 in 2001 to 329 in 2004.
Peeing in the shower regularly could trim about 10 litres off that total. Add it up and we're talking 10 litres per day for each Canadian.
That's potentially 300 million liters of water everyday.
If it sounds far-fetched, it shouldn't.
In Brazil, the government even brought in public service announcements asking Brazilians to do just that: pee down the drain.
Would a similar strategy work in Canada?
I decided to ask the chief medical officer of health in Whitehorse, Canada's driest city, about a Canadian-based campaign to micturate in the shower.
"Many rural residents here have their own water and septic systems, so are used to the saying: ‘If it's brown, flush it down. It it's yellow, let it mellow.' By propagating such a saying more widely, we could save on flushes as well as extra showers," Dr. Brendan Hanley told me in an email recently.
"Yukoners might also be more easily induced to pee outside than their urban Brazilian counterparts, as there is a lot of suitable outdoor space. And we could also be encouraged to shower together more; a strategy that I imagine would have also have had considerable traction in Brazil."
From a medical perspective, Hanley also didn't see a big problem with germs
"As for sanitary risks: I am sure that hazard was duly considered in Brazil. When I think of all the things that could, and probably do, go down the drain, a little bit of urine, which is mostly sterile anyway, amongst vast volumes of water is probably harmless."
Franz Hartman, from the Toronto Environmental Alliance, echoed that opinion. But he had doubts about any potential campaign's efficacy.
"I have been told that urine is completely without nasty stuff in it, but to be honest, if people are serious, what they should be doing is installing a duel-flush toilet and installing low-flow shower heads," Hartman said.
He also suggested washing your car at home and using an efficient washing machine for clothing as ways to ease water consumption.
Hartman said that in his home, he practices the cottage-mantra of letting the yellow mellow, but he conceded that the shower approach has some merit.
"If people want to do it, great, but there's many better ways to save water … If you've got a dual flush toilet, you're already dramatically reducing your consumption."
As people like Lisa, she will continue to go in the shower, even if she might have to wait a little bit longer to come out of the shadows.
"Flushing is bad," she said. "Anyway, I don't remember consciously starting to pee in the shower, I always have. It seemed logical."
What do you think? Are there easier ways to save water around your home?