The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Navy Showers for All?

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


It is bad enough the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) squandered $2 million of taxpayer money on grants and projects to capture methane gas from agricultural waste and landfills in foreign countries, $15 million on fraudulent credit card use, and in spite of several employees' illicit behavior, such as watching pornography or running a business while at work, not one has been fired.  Now, the agency wants to spend money to find out how much water hotel guests use while taking a shower. According to the Washington Free Beacon, the EPA plans to spend $15,000 so hotels can "monitor how much time its guests spend in the shower.”  The grant will be provided to the University of Tulsa to develop a wireless monitoring system.  Of course, this is only Phase 1 of the project so expect a lot more tax money to be spent on developing and marketing this gimmick. The EPA grant states:

The proposed wireless device will have three main components: a flow meter, an embedded system and software, and a resource accounting system. This technology will provide hotel guests with the ability to monitor their daily water online or using a smartphone app, and will assist hotel guest in modifying their behavior to help conserve water. The proposed wireless device will be marketed to the hotel industry to reduce costs by promoting water conservation among hotel guests. An interdisciplinary team of undergraduate students from chemical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and management and marketing will work in a collaborative effort to build and test a prototype device, and explore the market potential of the wireless device.

Ultimately, according to Associate Professor Tyler W. Johannes who is working on the project at Tulsa, the plan is to sell the device to major hotel chains.  It is hoped guests will reduce their time spent in showers from eight minutes to at most seven minutes. The professor has all sorts of ideas how people can use less water.  One idea Johannes promotes is to collect the water from a shower while you are waiting for it to heat up and use it for watering for plants.  He also recommends taking a "Navy shower."  A Navy shower requires you to turn on the water to wet your body and hair.  Then the water is turned off while you shampoo and clean with soap.  Once finished with soaping up, you turn on the water and rinse off. (That sounds particularly refreshing during the winter months, doesn't it?) Meanwhile, the EPA insists the agency is not monitoring how long people spend in showers.  Their spokeswoman, EPA Deputy Press Secretary Laura Allen, said, “Let us be very clear, EPA is not monitoring how much time hotel guests spend in the shower.  As part of the People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3), a student design competition for sustainability, students at the University of Tulsa are conducting research to develop a novel low-cost wireless device for monitoring water use from hotel guest room showers.” But this is not the only thing the EPA does when it comes to monitoring… er sorry …studying water usage.  The agency has a WaterSense Challenge program “that challenges hotels to track their water use and upgrade their restrooms with low-flow toilets and showerheads” and “encourages linen and towel reuse programs” in guest rooms.  While the agency claims it is not monitoring water usage, it seems to have a lot of facts provided by hotels such as, “according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, instituting towel and linen programs in guest rooms can reduce loads of laundry washed by 17 percent” and that “after implementing water efficiency best management practices in its mechanical systems, an Atlanta, Georgia, hotel is saving 36 million gallons of water and $1 million in water and sewer costs annually, reducing its overall hotel water use by 35 percent over three years."  The agency encourages hotels to "take the challenge and start learning from other successful hotels.” EPA’s Deputy Press Secretary Laura Allen says, “The marketplace, not EPA, will decide if there is a demand for this type of technology.” But a true marketplace can decide if there is a demand for this type of technology without the EPA getting involved. All utilities, such as electricity and water use, are included in the price of a hotel room.  Hotel executives can decide if it is worth the effort to conserve water without the EPA hovering over it.  But if a hotel’s CEO gets a letter from a regulatory agency about water consumption, the hotel's leadership may feel it is better to “partner” with the government agency than to ignore it. Ironically, last June, the EPA spent more than $40,000 on hotel expenses for a conference on environmental justice.  I wonder how much water the employees used?

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