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Why we make water saving showers

Why we make water saving showers

Nebia’s core products, what we call our “hero products” are designed to feel great, and save water. We deeply believe that by making products our customers love, we can fast-track getting water-saving technologies to market quicker than regulators or the industry would do on their own. Doing this can have a meaningful impact on the planet. So far we have saved 250 million gallons of water.

Our process to make more enjoyable products with higher water-efficiency is to innovate on nozzle technologies never before used in showers, and then consistently iterate to improve performance and lower costs. This has been our mission since the beginning, and we have made progress, but we are not even close to being done (stay tuned for some exciting updates in the coming months). 

Nebia Gallons Saved_ from Nebia on Vimeo.

Part of our mission is to save water, but we also want to make the habit of conserving a delight. If we achieve this, by making more efficient products that people love, the second-order effects stretch beyond water savings, for both the individual, and collectively, for the planet. 

For individuals, the second-order effect of installing a Nebia is to instill a habit of passively saving, vs needing to actively save resources. If individuals are deliberate about their purchases and environment, they can choose to save water once and make it a habit, instead of relying on willpower every day (a situation that psychology research says will most likely fail). 

Collectively, by accelerating the move to more efficient showers, the second-order effects of decreasing the average water used per shower are a significant decrease in energy consumption and preservation of our already fragile water infrastructure. 

The Individual Impact

Making savings automatic: Passively saving vs actively saving

Our environments matter. Despite our best intentions, when everything around us is geared towards resource consumption, then we will consume more resources. If it’s easier to buy a bottle of water than fill ours up, we will buy it. If it's easier to throw away food waste, instead of composting, we will trash it. If our showers flow at 2.5 GPM, we will use 2.5 gallons of water every minute we shower, and on average, 20 gallons per shower.  

If we have to make the choice every day to conserve resources, our will power will diminish when our motivations falter. The research shows that it is much more effective to change our environment to support our goals, then to choose to reduce our resource consumption daily.

We may rush through our shower, consciously trying to save water. But when we are tired, or stressed, or need a break from the world, it becomes harder to consciously conserve. We will go back to long showers. We will throw the food scraps in the trash, and we will buy the plastic bottle of water. Will power has limits. And the world is filled with things that demand it. Sometimes conserving loses out. And that is ok, as it is better to be an imperfect environmentalist, than to not try at all.

Our goal in making a shower that people love, and uses less water, is to make the decision to save water a one-time choice for people. A choice that will pay dividends every time you shower under Nebia. The water savings becomes automatic, passive instead of active. You install a Nebia. You take a shower. You save water (as well as energy by heating less water). You changed your environment, and it makes savings automatic.

One choice and a 15 minute install (no plumber) will allow you to save 8 gallons and
.7 kWh (enough power to charge 130 phones or run 58 hours of an average LED light) on the first day, 220 gallons and 19.25 kWh in the first month, and 2,700 gallons and 236 kWh in the first year.1,2 That one change five years down the line saves a family of four over 50,000 gallons of water and 4,375 kWh of energy, almost half a year worth of household water and power.

Cumulative savings grow every day with Nebia, but they can really compound when you apply this framework across your imperfect conservation efforts. One deliberate shift to your environment can forever reduce your footprint; it allows you to accumulate savings without having to will yourself to do so every day. It could be a reusable water bottle that replaces the plastic ones you used to buy. A compost bin beside your trash. A shampoo bar, instead of bottles. LED light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs.

These choices shift your environment: they compound your savings, and they change your trajectory from using more, to using less. This doesn’t come from daily will power, but rather out of small environmental shifts that change your habits, and allow you to passively save.

The Collective Impact

A cascading change: Fast-tracking water-saving technologies

In the future, humans will have to shower with less water than we do now. It is a necessity. Globally, our fresh water is a finite natural resource, and our population will continue to grow. Regionally, once-in-a-century droughts are now happening every decade. By fast-tracking water-saving technologies we can have a material impact on our planet’s water use. 

From 1996 to 2016, U.S. home water consumption decreased 22%, but shower use decreased less than 5%. In 17 years, shower duration stayed the same, and water use barely decreased. In 17 years, shower efficiency improved only 4%, that is .26% a year. In that same time period, the use of water in toilets decreased  29%, and in dishwashers it decreased by 39%. If instead of .26% improvement a year, we achieved a 1% reduction per year, we would save over 1.7 billion gallons of water over the next decade, and if we improved 2% per year we would save 3.9 billion gallons, across the US. 

Fast-tracking water-saving technologies, by only a small percent every year, has an enormous impact on our water use. This is just the tip of the iceberg (pardon the pun). It takes energy and infrastructure to clean and deliver water, both of which are environmentally and monetarily costly.

We can use California as an example to see the potential impact (they have good data, and it is where our headquarters are located):

  • “Approximately 20 percent of statewide electricity use—and 30 percent of business and home use of natural gas—goes to pumping, treating, and heating water.” 
  • 14% of energy used for water is used on showers (42% of water energy is used for residential water, and ⅓ of that energy is used for showers)

  • “Large portions of US water and wastewater systems were built over a century ago. As pipes, plants, and pumps reach the end of their expected lifespan, they need to be upgraded, replaced, or fortified. In addition, many systems are not equipped to meet the new demands they face today with growing populations, increased treatment requirements, and the impacts of climate change.”

If we fast-track water-savings technology, improving overall efficiency just 1% a year, we can save 236M kWh of energy over a decade and slow the increasing demands on our aging, and fragile, water infrastructure. 

The reason we wake up every day with the goal of making a better shower is not because we love showers (although we really do), but because making a better shower can have meaningful impacts for our customers and for the world collectively. It allows the imperfect environmentalist, or a shower enthusiast, to make one choice and automatically save precious water resources for as long as they use it. That can start, or bolster, habits that compound across their daily lives.

We strive to make the showers of the future because making showers with the efficiency of 2031, in 2021, can save 1.7B gallons of water (or more), 236M kWh
4 of energy, and untold gains across our water infrastructure.

We can’t do this alone. We encourage everyone in our industry to design for the future, instead of lobbying to hold on to the past. We want every company that uses natural resources to ask themselves “How can we do this better?” Saving water is at the core of what Nebia does not just because water is important, but because the cascading effects of saving water at home can have a material global impact.

-Gabriel Parisi-Amon, Nebia CEO and Co-Founder

Endnotes:

  1. The numbers used for savings are an average across Nebia shower products. 
  2. Many water heaters use natural gas as energy to heat, and the energy consumed is often measured in therms. To get an average amount of energy saved, we used an average split of gas vs electric water heaters, along with efficiency of the different heating methods to get the average energy used, and saved, during a shower.
  3. Source: Public Policy Institute of California
  4. Source: US Water Alliance 
  5. All water and energy savings over the next decade are calculated for the United States based on the EPAs average water/energy use per shower, and showers per person.