…And That’s Why There’s a Bucket in my Bathtub

Jo Ann Skousen 1Nothing feels so good as stepping into a hot steamy shower on a cold winter day, especially when you’re experiencing the fever and chills of a cold. Unless you’re living in California, that is. There’s no such thing as a “hot steamy shower” here. Not with all the regulations that govern the distribution and delivery of water.

Now, I’m all in favor of conservation. I know there’s a drought. But I think there are reasonable ways to encourage conservation without ruining the flow of water to my showerhead or mandating the method for heating that water. (Letting water out of the reservoirs when they are less than 60% full, as is the general policy here, is not among those reasonable methods, in my opinion.)

Let’s address the tankless water heater first. It’s a great concept: reduce the amount of power consumed to heat household water by not keeping a tank full of hot water at all times. Got it. I kind of like the added bonus of having as much hot water as I want because the tankless water is limitless as well. But the concept reminds me of a coworker at a mountain lodge where I once worked who suggested that we could save money on napkins by using paper towels instead. Yes, we could save money on napkins by not providing them. But our cost for paper towels would have doubled. Unintended consequences can be pretty obvious sometimes.

So here’s what happens when I want to do the dishes or take a shower or wash the clothes: First, I turn on the hot water tap. Then I clear the table (or make the bed, or gather the laundry.) By the time I’m finished, the water is finally hot. To be sure, two and a half minutes of water have gone down the drain in the meantime, because that’s how long it takes for our tankless water to heat up and reach the faucet. But no power has been wasted keeping a tankful of water warm until I needed it.

Of course, once the water’s hot, the sky’s the limit. With a hot water tank, I’m more efficient, because I’m always aware that the water will soon turn cold. Not so with a tankless heater! Not that I think I should take a 20-minute shower, but when several people in a household are getting ready for the day at the same time, it’s nice if the last one in doesn’t have to endure the shock of cold water. However, when my sons were teens they would stay in the shower until the hot water was gone; if we’d had a tankless system, they would probably still be there, turning into prunes.

And then there’s my real nemesis: The shower head insert that restricts the flow of water. At my New York home, where the shower restrictor allows a more reasonable flow of water, I am in and out of the shower in five minutes. Here in California, it takes nearly twenty minutes of water flow from the time I start heating the water till I’m finally rinsed and out. And it isn’t even a satisfying twenty minutes. It feels like I’m standing under a soft drizzly rain, not a shower. The water has so little pressure that it barely dampens the top layer of my hair, and it doesn’t penetrate the inner layers at all (and I am not blessed with luxurious thick hair). So here’s the process: I work enough water and shampoo into my hair to lather it, and I rinse as much as I can under the shower. Then I switch from shower to faucet, and sit down in the tub to rinse my hair thoroughly under the tap. Next I need to apply conditioner, because the water here in California is so mineral rich (or “hard” as my mother used to call it.) So I stand back up, switch the control back to shower to avoid freezing while the conditioner conditions, and then I’m back on tub floor, rinsing under the spigot.

So far I’ve managed to do all this without slipping, but it’s probably not the safest morning routine. I suppose I could try keeping a bucket in the shower, filling it with warm water, and pouring it over my head instead of using the faucet. But it would probably take five minutes to fill the bucket! So I’ll continue with the yo-yo routine, while I look forward to traveling and enjoying a hot, steamy shower in a hotel.

For more about government regulation and intrusion into our private lives, listen to our panels and debates on regulation, technology, and the environment at FreedomFest, July 19-22, Paris Resort, Las Vegas, https://archive.freedomfest.com/register-now/ or call 855-850-3733 ext. 202.

And read FF regular Jeffrey Tucker’s article about government control of water here: https://fee.org/articles/your-shower-is-lame-you-dishwasher-doesn-t-work-and-your-clothes-are-dirty/