What if your shower could help you use less water?

Cloud Burst is a smart faucet that gently reminds users when they have used more water in the shower than they intended. The idea was developed by Shruti KNR and Chelsey Wickmark from the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID). The duo looked into how a faucet could help us use less water in the shower, without interrupting people’s special ‘me’ time.

We use up to 19 litres of water per minute when we take a shower. That’s a lot. In fact, showers are the second largest users of water in our homes after toilets. This is coupled with the fact that water resources are in a critical state. According to the United Nations, 1.2 billion people on earth live in areas that suffer from water scarcity and the situation may only worsen as climate change alters weather patterns, leaving some areas with far less water than they normally receive.

If we all cut back a little, it would make a huge difference, but the real challenge lies in the fact that a shower is more than just a way to get clean. Many of us use the warmth and isolation to unwind, relax and reflect. The issue of course is that the longer you’re in there, the more of a precious and finite resource literally goes down the drain. So how can we use less water in the shower without unpleasantly interrupting the special alone time it offers us?

The time people spend in the shower is often seen as a reflective or re-energizing moment in their day – a sacred time

Shruti KNR and Chelsey Wickmark designed a faucet that allows the user to pre-select how much water they want to use. You can choose between a “short”, “eco” or “high” length shower. Sensors then monitor the water flow. Instead of cutting off the flow when the allocated amount is used, the faucet instead starts to glow – a subtle reminder to the user that their time is up. “From our user research, we quickly realised that the time people spend in the shower is often seen as a reflective or re-energizing moment in their day – a sacred time”, explains Shruti. “This wasn't an appropriate space to introduce heavy-handed methods to change behaviour. Therefore, we opted to design a product that nudged people in the right direction rather than punished them.”

 

Taking a shower that lasts roughly 8 minutes uses about the same amount of energy as burning a 60-watt bulb for 24 hours.

The two students from CIID did the math: if each member of IKEA’s loyalty program, IKEA Family, installed Cloud Burst and cut his or her showers by as little as a minute a day, it would make a huge impact. “If each of the 70 million IKEA Family members were motivated to reduce their shower time by just 1 minute each day, together they could save over 150 billion litres of water each year”, says Chelsey. And that’s just for one person per household. Imagine what the impact would be if everyone shaved a minute off their time in the shower.

To further increase motivation to cut back, Cloud Burst will also collect data about a household’s water usage so you can track your behaviour. By being able to monitor both individual and collective water savings, users are empowered to keep their showers short and water reserves topped up.

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