Taking a Bath vs Shower: Which Uses Less Water?

What's the Point of Saving Water?

By the numbers, roughly 71% of the earth is covered in water. So why should we all be so concerned about water conservation? To start, let's break down that 71%. 97% of all the water on the earth is salt water, which is not suitable for drinking. The other 3% of water is fresh water, and only measly 1% is available for drinking. The other 2% of fresh water is locked in glaciers and ice caps. So yeah, there really isn't that much water to go around when we break down the numbers. 

To make matters worse, the world is currently undergoing an unprecedented growth in the global population. The problem is that there are more people but no new sources of fresh water. That 1% is all we have to support the entire planet. Therefore, it only makes sense that we must preserve and conserve this precious resource.

The whole point of water conservation is to limit your overall water use. Now, this is no time to be selfish, seeing as how my water habits will ultimately impact you.  Hence, it is our responsibility to learn more about water conservation and how we can help keep our sources pure and safe for generations to come.

Reasons to Conserve Water

To make the importance of water conservation stick, here are our top 5 reasons for conserving water. 

It Minimizes the Effects of Drought and Water Shortages:

By simply reducing the amount of water we use and waste, we can actually help fight against future droughts. Despite the fact that our need for fresh water sources is always increasing, our supply always stays constant. But just because our supply stays constant doesn't mean that the supply will always come from the same place. Even though water eventually returns to the Earth through the water cycle, it does not always return to the same spot, or in the same quantity and quality. If used improperly, water may not ever be able to be reused. 

It Guards Against Rising Costs and Political Conflict: 

Failing to conserve water can eventually lead to a lack of an adequate, healthy water supply. Once this happens we will begin to see rising costs of water, reduced food supplies, health hazards, and political conflict.

It Helps to Preserve Our Environment: 

By reducing our use of water and subsequent energy, we help to reduce pollution and conserve fuel resources.

It Makes Water Available in the Future for Recreational Purposes: 

Much of our freshwater resources are also used for beautifying our surroundings. Failing to conserve water now can mean losing out on such fun and beautiful uses later on.

It Builds Safe and Beautiful Communities: 

Firefighters, hospitals, gas stations, street cleaners, health clubs, gyms, and restaurants all require large amounts of water to provide services to the community. Reducing our usage of water now means that these services can continue to be provided.

Water in Gallons: Shower vs Bath

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a full bathtub requires roughly 36 gallons of water. While on the other hand, taking a five-minute shower uses roughly 10 to 25 gallons. 36 gallons sounds like a lot, but even regardless of using less water in a bath, a simple calculation shows that either way, baths use more water. A simple way to prove this point is by stopping the drain in your next shower. The results will speak for themselves.

You can save even more water and money by using a low-flow shower head. A rough estimate states that if every household installed a water-saving shower head, the United States could reduce its annual water consumption by 250 billion gallons. That totals up to $1.5 billion saved on water bills across the nation. That is a lot of money, regardless of the way you look at it.

Are Showers or Baths more Environmentally Friendly?

 According to the United States Geological Survey, the typical bathtub holds about 36 gallons of water. Presumably, you’re only partially filling it, so the typical bath is probably more in the 20-30-gallon range. Now if you take long showers with a standard 2.5-gallon-per-minute (gsm) shower head, you won’t be too far off that number. An 8-12 minute shower will fill your tub to the 20-30 gallon mark. Now if you have switched to a 2 gsm rated shower-head, 10-15 minutes in the shower will get you to the 20-30 gallon mark. With an even water-friendlier 1.5-gsm model, it’d be 13 to 20 minutes. But let's get serious, if you’re taking a more reasonable 5-minute shower with a 2-gsm shower-head, you’d use just 10 gallons.

Which One Gets You Cleaner?

People tend to hold firm opinions as to whether a bath or shower is better, but these views seem to be based on personal preference rather than any scientific findings. In general, those who prefer showers argue that they get you cleaner than bathing in a tub. Shower lovers will profess that when you bath you can end up sitting in dirty, soapy water. While on the other hand bath lovers argue that you’re safer washing your feet in the tub than standing in the shower where soaping them could cause you to slip and fall. But then again, that isn't really a complaint against being cleaner. But overall, you probably get as clean in a bath as a shower since most people who wash daily don’t get very dirty. 

Which One Will Save You Money?

Before determining how much money you can save by taking a shower versus a bath, you must consider a few factors. The type of shower head, the length of time it takes you to shower and the cost of the water all must be considered. 

Shower Head:

Restricted or low-flow shower heads use half the water that traditional, unrestricted shower heads use. Low-flow shower heads only use about 2.5 gallons of water each minute. Unrestricted shower heads can use as much as twice that volume of water. If you have a home that was built before 1992 and you have never replaced the shower head, you probably have an unrestricted shower head.

Length of Bathing Time:

The time you spend taking a shower will affect the cost of a shower when determining the relative cost of getting clean. A bath usually requires 20 to 50 gallons of water depending on how full you have the tub. The average shower can take about four minutes, but it might take longer if you're shaving or washing your hair.

The Cost:

If you shower with a restricted shower head that only uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute and lasts for four minutes, you will use 10 gallons of water. While on the other hand, a bath generally requires at least 20 gallons of water. If you take a shower every day for one year and use 10 gallons of water each time, you will use 3,650 gallons of water per year versus 7,300 gallons per year if you take a bath every day.

Cost of Water:

The cost of water plays into the equation when determining the cost savings of bathing versus showering. Water companies measure water usage in cubic feet. One cubic foot is 7.48 gallons of water. If you use 3,650 gallons of water per year for a shower, you are using 487.97 cubic feet of water. Although each municipal water utility has a different cost per cubic foot of water, the City of Sheboygan Water Utility has a cost of $1.50 per 100 cubic feet for the first 5,000 cubic feet. Therefore, 487.97 cubic feet of water used for a daily shower each year would cost about $731.96 per year. A year's worth of daily baths that use a total of 7,300 gallons — or 975.93 cubic feet — of water would cost about $1,463.90 per year.

So yup, showers are significantly cheaper when compared to bathing.

Pros and Cons of Showers and Baths

Bathing Pros:
  1. Warm baths can soothe muscle pain.
  2. Salt baths can calm arthritic pain.
  3. Steam baths can relieve sinus pressure.
  4. Hot baths can result in better sleep.
  5. Bathtubs are safer for children.
Bathing Cons:
  1. Bathtubs take up more space than showers.
  2. Filling a bathtub requires a lot of water.
  3. Bathing is more time-consuming.
  4. The elderly may have difficulties using a bathtub.
  5. The dirt from your body remains in your bath water.
Showering Pros:
  1. Generally, less water is used in a shower.
  2. A shower is faster than a bath.
  3. Showers are easily accessible to the elderly and injured.
  4. Your water heater uses less energy during a shower.
  5. Shower stalls require minimal space.
Showering Cons:
  1. Shower doors require a routine cleaning, and shower curtains require occasional replacement.
  2. It’s harder to bathe small children in a shower.
  3. Sealing leaks are harder to fix.
  4. You have to stand to shower.
  5. Your bathroom becomes a steam-room post-shower.

Tips and Tricks to Help Conserve Water

Save Water While Bathing:

When taking a bath, fill the tub only halfway to avoid water spilling over. Also, don’t wait for the water to get hot before plugging the drain. Plug the drain first and adjust the temperature as the tub fills. This can save lots of water in the long run. If it takes too long for the water to heat up in the morning, consider saving the cold water by catching it with a bucket and using it in the garden or watering household plants.

Install WaterSense Shower Heads:

Shower heads that are labeled as WaterSense are more water efficient than the average shower head. Keep an eye out for these types when shopping for a new shower head.

Install a Steam Shower:

Steam showers use the power of steam to keep clean but they are also very water efficient. They use less water than a traditional shower and are very relaxing to use.

Lower Shower Time:

One of the best places to make a difference is in the shower. This is the place where many people waste water for personal use more than anywhere else. Every minute less of shower time means 150 gallons less of water wasted per month. For homeowners, this also leads to a dramatic reduction in the water bill.

Don’t Leave Shower Running:

Instead of letting the shower run, turn it off while lathering up and washing hair. If it’s annoying to have to constantly readjust the temperature, look for shower heads with quick shut off valves.

Hang Bath Towels to Dry:

Instead of washing towels after every use, hang them up to dry in an open space, such as on a clothesline. This way they can be reused on a daily basis and still feel dry and crisp.

Check for Leaks:

Check water sources in the bathroom regularly for leaks and slow drips. While it may not seem like much, a small drip can waste plenty of water. Call a plumber or handyman if it is not an easy fix.

Install Water Aerators:

Water aerators on bathroom faucets are a very effective way to save water. They reduce water waste by limiting the flow of water. Aerators also save energy by limiting the flow of hot water, thus using less.

Save Water While Shaving:

Gather a bit of water in the sink for cleaning the razor off while shaving. This is much better than using running water to rinse off shavings. The savings in water is much more than you’d expect.

Turn Off the Faucet:

Don’t leave the water running while brushing teeth and washing hands.

Conclusion

The shower vs bath debate is not new, and I am sure that it is not going anywhere anytime soon. People who love bathing will argue that baths clean you better and are more therapeutic. While on the other hand, shower lovers believe that showers are far superior in cleaning and are better for the environment. Regardless of these debates, the numbers show that showers will save you time, money, and water. Showers use less water and energy. Therefore showers are the clear winner when it comes to conserving water and the environment. If you love bathing, don't give them up, just add the occasional shower into your bathing routine. 

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Tyler Farr
 

Tyler is an energetic nature enthusiast who is currently considering moving into a tiny house. Tyler and his wife enjoy hiking, mountain biking, camping, and doing anything in the great outdoors. He hopes that the articles he writes will help others learn how important it is to take care of the environment.

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