Yes I lived in West Africa for quite some time. Yes I took bucket showers daily. Save the few benefiting from natural gas, petroleum products, and oil  and a few Yahoo boys and girls, this is the norm for the upper, middle and lower classes. A great equalizer of sorts if you will.
In an experiment that is not quite bio-hacking but possibly enviro-hacking, I decided to go two months without taking a shower. For the past two months I used only a 2 gallon bucket of water and a couple drops of Dettol (a common additive to bath water in West Africa) plus whatever soap/sponge/shampoo inspired me to clean myself (once a day, twice on gym days or really hot days) .
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program has an Energy Cost Calculator for Faucets and Showerheads (that’s a mouthful) that uses a 2.5 gallon per minute water flow rate as a default for US showers.
UK bathers have a mean shower time of 9.25 minutes and average UK shower sprays out about six liters of water a minute (roughly 1.6 gallons per minute). The average shower time in the U.S. is 7.5 minutes and with a flow rate of roughly 2.5 gallons per minute. This totals 14.8 gallons and 18.75 gallons of water per average shower in the UK and USA respectively.
These estimates do not include other water uses such as shaving, brushing teeth, etc., which adds a significant amount of both water and energy (heat).
For argument’s sake, lets say I took 2 showers per day over the last 60 days. My two gallon bucket shower times 2 showers per day (4 gallons) times 60 days equals 240 gallons of water used for showering for all of July and August. If I were in the UK, I would have used an even 888 gallons. If I were in the US, I would have used 1125 gallons.
I used 27% of what the average UK bathers use and 21% of what my fellow Americans use.
I think the impact speaks, rather loudly, for itself.
- United States Energy Information Administration. (2012, July 27). Nigeria – Analysis – Energy Information Administration – EIA – Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government . Retrieved from U.S. Energy Information Administration: http://www.eia.gov/countries/cab.cfm?fips=NI↵
- Giles, J. (2012, February 13). Meet the Yahoo Boys: Nigeria’s email scammers exposed. Retrieved from New Scientist: http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/onepercent/2012/02/meet-the-yahoo-boys.html↵
- U.S. Department of Energy. (n.d.). U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Energy: http://energy.gov/↵
- Federal Energy Management Program. (n.d.). Retrieved from U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/index.html↵
- Energy Cost Calculator for Faucets and Showerheads. (n.d.). Retrieved from U.S. Department of Energy Federal Energy Management Program: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/technologies/eep_faucets_showerheads_calc.html↵
- Gillespie, E. (2009, September 4). Let’s talk dirty … how long do you spend in the shower? Retrieved from Green living blog – Guardian News and Media : http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/green-living-blog/2009/sep/04/power-shower-blog↵
- Mount Holyoke College. (n.d.). Shrink Your Footprint. Retrieved from Mount Holyoke College; Environmental Stewardship: https://www.mtholyoke.edu/envstewardship/waterfootprint↵
- Inskeep, S. (Composer). (2006). Extra Shower Time Adds Up to Extra Energy Use. [National Public Radio, Performer] Washington, District of Columbia, USA↵