Water Conservation in the Shower (US Navy Style)

There are many simple ways to conserve water.  In the garden, you can get a rain barrel (or two or three, depending on the size of your roof and number of downspouts).  Be sure to keep your eaves troughs clear of debris such as leaves, rocks, and mud/dirt clogs.  Rainwater is free of chlorine (unlike water from your household water supply) and provides an excellent source of soft water for use in your garden.  Your plants and vegetables will thank you.

Likewise, it is relatively easy to reduce your water consumption in the kitchen and laundry room (get a high-efficiency front-loading washer).  For the bathroom you should be turning on the taps only to rinse your toothbrush/razor, wet and rinse your face, and to shower or bathe.

As far as the shower is concerned, you can go the more common route by purchasing a low-flow shower head.  As long as the water pressure is suitable, these showers have no trouble getting even the grimiest of people clean.  There is one technique, however, that is often overlooked.  How about turning the shower off altogether when lathering and/or scrubbing?  This method was introduced by the US Navy on submarines as a way to conserve the limited amount of fresh water.  For this reason, this method of showering is known as the “navy shower“.

For some, though, this may be easier said than done.  If your faucet-tap consists of two separate taps – one each for hot and cold – this technique is frought with endless fussing.  I imagine this is the case for at least half of the population, if not  more.  You will have an easier time of it if your hot-cold ratio selection is all-in-one.  Simply adjust to the appropriate temperature, wet yourself, and turn off the water.  This is likely the most desirable option as it turns off the water completely.

There is another option, though, for those with the two-tap setups.  I have seen shower heads with a small lever, allowing for a near-complete stop in water flow.  Only a small drip gets through when the lever is in the off position (I presume this is to prevent an undesirable pressure buildup, but can’t be sure).  Unfortunately, I have found these shower heads exceptionally difficult to find.  Indeed, I have yet to find one in my recent searches.  None of Rona, Home Hardware, Home Depot, or (God forbid) WalMart carry anything like this.

Your comments are welcome.  If you know of a store (physical or virtual) carrying such a shower head, or if you have some other technique for reducing household water use, please let me know.


9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by gekase on October 11, 2010 at 21:33

    i checked at Lowe’s and the gent there said that they used to carry them, but dropped them a few years ago. He suggested Home Depot, or some of the hardware stores in the area, or if nothing else, then try a plumbing supply house.

  2. Posted by gekase on October 11, 2010 at 21:28

    I recently purchased a shut off valve from Home Depot for less then $3. It doesn’t cut the water off completely, but it is a fast drip, probably less than 1 gallon an hour. Any way, it was very inexpensive, and it works well.
    Just unscrew the shower head, screw the valve in its place, and then screw the shower head to the valve. It will work with either a fixed head or one on a hose.

  3. Posted by gekase on September 6, 2010 at 21:47

    Here is a link to a valve for under $5: http://www.usalandlord.com/shonsw.html
    I just found it on Google, so I can’t validate the site, but these valves are available and they are not expensive. I’m going to look locally, tomorrow, and if I can’t find pone, lookout on line order.

  4. Posted by browtm on September 1, 2010 at 21:14

    Zombie Comment Thread Resurrection!!! 😉

    I picked up a momentary shutoff valve some time ago and I’ve been using it at work. The water tanks in wellsite buildings have a clear tube as a sight glass- I’ve been using this to watch exactly how much water I use showering, washing samples, etc.

    Using the valve, I estimate I’ve cut water usage during showers by at least two thirds, possibly as much as three quarters.

    Just thought I’d pass that along, since it’s hard to meter individual water use at a specific fixture at home.

  5. […] never heard of a Navy Shower before. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Blog down still ; Riders In The […]

  6. Posted by browtm on June 23, 2010 at 03:45

    Actually you don’t need a new shower head*, you can just install a shutoff valve between the head and the pipe leading to it:


    The nice thing about the valve is that you can use it with either an old head or a new, low-flow head, and it’s a cheap and quick fix.

    *I think Restoration Hardware has shower heads with built-in shutoffs, but they’re spendy… $160 or so.

    • Excellent, thank you! It has been difficult even for me to find stuff like this. I knew there had to be an easy/easier way….

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