Students asked to pee in the shower to save water


Students at the University of East Anglia in Norwich have been implored to pee in the shower to save water. A campaign with this aim named #gowiththeflow was devised by students Chris Dobson and Debs Torr.

The idea reached the final stage of the Npower Future Leaders Challenge, a competition where students conceive projects that would cause other students to live more sustainably. There are 28 other competitors. Students are invited to enact the eight best ideas. Members of the winning team will go to the Amazonian rainforest and work with the Kaxinawá tribe.

What could be achieved

20-year-old Dobson proclaimed, “We’ve done the maths, and this project stands to have a phenomenal impact.” If the university’s 15,000 students were to pee in the shower, enough water would be saved to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool 26 times over.

Each flush uses 22 pints of water at a cost of tuppence (OK, three US cents/2.5 euro cents), so USD200,918/GBP125,000/EUR159,110 could be saved. East Anglia receives a third less rain than the rest of England and has one of the highest rates of housing development, so the location is well-chosen.

Dobson enthused about how much water could be saved if everybody in East Anglia or even the whole of the United Kingdom followed suit: in the latter case, USD691/GBP430/EUR547 million less would be spent on water.

People are asked to advertise the fact that they pee in the shower on Facebook and Twitter, and the first 15 will be granted USD17/GBP10/EUR13 gift vouchers.

The campaign could be successful, as witnessed by the Brazilian green pressure group, SOS Mata Atlântica, which acted similarly.

What has been accomplished

Dobson mentioned that his idea had been “really divisive – people seem to love it or hate it,” but he was far from deterred because “that’s exactly what we want.” The aim of the campaign was “to start a debate on a resource that we largely take for granted.”

Consequently, many people were speaking of the scheme and other ways to accomplish the same end, not only at the university but nationwide – the BBC covered the story (2). Dobson added, “Most people don’t realise that we use fresh water much faster than it can be naturally replenished.”

But what about the health impact?

Dobson and Torr took advice from a professor and online to ascertain the risk to health and concluded that so long as water was flowing when someone elected to pee in the shower, there would be none. Urine is sterile. They did, however, stress that it would be wise to obtain permission from everybody who uses the shower.

More people confess to singing in the shower than peeing in it.

About the Author Timothy Chilman

Timothy Chilman used to work in IT. Once, in Sydney, he was turned down for a job because he was “too flamboyant” (“Someone who wears green tartan suspenders to a job interview probably isn’t going to fit in here”). Timothy then became an English teacher. University students in Bangkok complained that he was “too enthusiastic” and company students in Prague complained that he was “too theatrical.”

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