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High-pressure showers can cut water use, study suggests – as average wash time revealed

Anyone who thinks their low-pressure shower is better for the environment because it uses less water may be in for a surprise.

New research suggests that water-guzzling high-pressure showers may in fact reduce overall water consumption.

The findings, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, come as UK officials grapple with ways to plug the rising gap between water supply and demand.

Researchers covertly monitored 290 different showers on the Surrey University campus, gathering data from a total of 86,421 individual showers.

They found water consumption reduced by up to 60% with higher pressure, suggesting people don’t jump out of the shower after a certain length of time, but rather “stop showering when they have achieved a particular experience”.

They also installed visible timers in some of the showers to see if that impacted how long people spent on their soaks.

The length of showers was quite varied, they said, with the average shower taking 6.7 minutes, but half of the showers lasting between 3.3 and 8.8 minutes.

“We excluded any showers over one hour, but believe me, they happened,” Ian Walker, environmental psychology professor at Swansea University, wrote on X.

His research team believe the Surrey University students who were monitored took shorter showers than the general public.

“Last time we measured showers in the UK public we found an average of 10.8 minutes,” Prof Walker added.

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Europe’s water problem

In this study, the team found that Surrey students enjoying high-pressure showers and visible timers used about 17 litres of water on average.

This was around 3.5 times less than the 61 litres churned through by those with low-pressure showers and no timer.

“‘Enhancing water efficiency in showers is crucial, given their high water consumption, energy use and associated carbon emissions,” the research team wrote.

The Environment Agency says the gap between water supply and demand is increasing, as the population grows and a hotter climate changes UK rainfall patterns and temperatures.

By 2050, England may face a supply shortfall of four billion litres a day, it says.

The Environment Act 2021 demands a big cut in how much water households use, from the current 144 to 110 litres per person each day.

The team acknowledged their study doesn’t actually determine why increasing water pressure reduces consumption, and called for further research.

Watch The Climate Show with Tom Heap on Saturdays and Sundays at 3.30pm and 7.30pm on Sky News, on the Sky News website and app, and on YouTube and Twitter.

The show investigates how global warming is impacting people and the natural world, and highlights the solutions driving the transition away from fossil fuels.

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