Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Four Minute Shower

At the beginning of this week South East Queensland began Level 5 water restrictions in an effort to mete out the ever dwindling water supply. The water needs to last either until we receive a substantial amount of rain, which isn’t looking likely any time soon, or until the water recycling works project is completed, hopefully ahead of schedule. As even the most irreligious amongst us pray for one or both of these eventualities, we are, as a population, collectively coming to terms with the novelty of these most recent water saving measures. I say ‘novelty’ because apparently they had to make the restrictions up; no government in the history of the area has ever had to cope with this combination of long term drought and population growth before.

Since I’m not a gardener, or a car or pet owner, I’ll admit to not really absorbing the details of the restrictions that apply to the water usage associated with those lifestyle accoutrements. (Something about only being allowed to water or wash with teaspoon measures of grey water). While washers of dishes, of which I am one, seem not to have received any particular directive, those who partake of regular showers, of which I am also one, have been appealed to on a nostalgic level: ‘Bring back the 4 minute shower’ is the new catch phrase. I am clearly far too young to have ever heard of ‘the four minute shower’—was it part of the home front effort for the Second World War? Viet Nam?

Nevertheless, I have found myself in a surprising state of readiness to take up this challenge from the SEQ Water Commission. Ever since I became enamoured of the star-shaped shower timers for sale at an eco shop up the road from me, I have been in training for the eventuality of ‘the [mandatory] four minute shower’. I have been flexing my four minute shower taking muscles and I’m working towards becoming a gold medal contender in the four minute shower taking stakes.

At present I am being hindered in attaining my goal due to difficulties encountered in the first stretch of the four minute shower. This is the time during the four minute shower that the water from the hot water tap takes to become hot. I have calculated that at least 20-30 valuable seconds worth of precious water is lost, for no exchange value in terms of cleaning myself, while I make the necessary adjustments to the temperature of the four minute shower.

If I was a gardener I would harness the water lost during this period of the four minute shower into a bucket for irrigating the garden. I do recall there was an invention on The New Inventors that solved the problem of this wasted water, but since I’m in rental accommodation I don’t like my chances of getting the lessor to install any water saving devices. (At this point I should probably not mention my terribly unsound shower head). I am working on solutions that might mitigate this loss of water. Perhaps if I purchase a clean bucket, especially for this purpose, I can tip it into my water filter? I’d have to be careful not to pollute the bucket with soap, lest my pasta begin to taste of suds.

Another hurdle to the timely four minute shower is the need to wash my hair. On the occasions when I have to wash my hair—every two days, since there’s masses of it—I have generally found that I have to reset the four minute shower timer, and I often take another minute or so. I am slowly getting better at this, but meanwhile, I have worked out a kind of exchange system whereby when I have a regular shower I try to be finished before the sand in the timer runs out. In this way, I can accrue shower time to use on those days when, for whatever reason, I exceed the four minute mark.

The four minute shower has been quite a challenge for me. Previously, I have liked to daydream in the shower, or just stand there for what must have been five minutes at a time with the water massaging my scalp and shoulders. But there is no time for dreaming of massages in the four minute shower. None at all. It’s all business. From the moment the water temperature is right, it’s a sprint to the end:

Shower gel. Check. Loofah. Check. Hands. Arms. Underarms. Feet. Calves. Thighs. Torso. Front. Back. Quick. Scrub away dead old skin cells and sweat. Face wash. Check. Forehead. Neck. DĂ©colletage. Plunge my head under the stream of water. It can’t matter if it’s too hot for your face. Must get rid of the soap. Quickly. Taps off! Phew.

Aargh! Still only a silver medal performance.


Lucy said...

The shower is one of my favourite places to daydream, too. I think I've started to lose some of my water-saving habits, now that I'm living somewhere that has plentiful rain. I'm definitely going to have to start training before I go back...

Kirsty said...

Yes, we'll all have to come up with some other place to daydream.

All suggestions welcome!

OTT said...

Oh, I am sorry to hear Brissie's water situation gets more and more desperate.

I once went to this campsite in the Warrumbungles that had shower timers where the water would stop after 4 minutes. And to reset the timer, you have to go outside the toilet block. I washed my hair (I have rather a lot of it) in the basin so that I could at least go outside fully clothed to reset, and reusing the water that I wet my hair with to do the firt rinse.