How Much Does a Bath Cost?

As previously mentioned, I am on vacation this week. So far, activities have included sleeping in, getting a sunburn on the deck while having morning coffee, playing multiple games of cribbage and Rummikub with dear husband, paddling in the kayaks for a short time and MAYBE seeing a pinniped of some sort in the water, eating taco pizza (twice), watching movies and enjoying the large jetted tub in the master suite of our condo. I am not normally a bather; I have always preferred a shower, at least that I can remember. However this is the first time I may have realized why.

The average bathtub that you would have in your house holds 60-80 gallons of water, when filled. The tub I am enjoying as I write this post, likely holds 115-130 gallons! To contrast, a 10-minute shower usually takes 25-50 gallons, depending on whether and how you use a water-saving flow-restriction device. I went through a period of my life when I was actively challenging myself to see how little time I could spend in the shower. I don’t recall whether this may have started as a reaction to my sister spending an INORDINATE amount of time in the bathroom or just some other temporary obsession of mine. Probably a little bit of both. At any rate, I think I got my personal best down to 3:14, with washing face and body and washing and conditioning my hair. And this was in the morning, as a teenager. I can tell you, I generally moved much more slowly at that time of day before I was introduced to caffeine.

So, if a 10-minute shower uses 50 gallons, at most, then a 3-minute shower uses 15. That’s 4-5 showers for 1 bath in a normal tub at home!

Even if we switch up the numbers a bit. Let’s say I’m not as fast as I used to be and now my showers take about 6 minutes, but I use a pretty low-flow setting on my water-saving shower head, so maybe I’m using 18 gallons (10-minutes at 30 gallons = 6-minutes at 18). Only 20% more, actually. It appears that my nice hot soaking tub could easily cover my 6-minute shower plus 100 more gallons, or more than a shower a day for a week.

This may seem like a non-sequitor, but I read an article this morning that the world’s glaciers have receded so much, that it is possible in no more than a few years, large rivers will no longer flow as they do now because they will no longer be glacier-fed. I live in the Pacific Northwest where it seems like we will always have the rainfall to fill the reservoirs, but we may not be safe from this fate, like our friends in California to the south.

So much of the drinking water for Oregon and Washington starts as glacier melt. Not only that, our power systems are, in part, powered by hydroelectric dams on the mighty rivers flowing down from the Cascades to the Columbia River and on to the Pacific Ocean. These are two systems, along with food, that allow humans to thrive in urban areas. And just try to grow vegetables, fruit, nuts, hops, barley, pinot noir grapes, much less livestock for meat without this water.

I really just wanted to write all that out and share it, because this series of equations and relationships have prevented me from enjoying baths from as far back as I can remember. I know, people find them relaxing, therapeutic even and I don’t judge them. I can’t. It’s really none of my business how much you value your bath time. It might be the one and only time when you can reliably get away from your kids for an hour a week. I’m sure I would pay plenty for that, if I were in your position. But I am not.

I am still in the bath. The bath that will have me thinking about how else I might try to save 100 extra gallons of water elsewhere this week to make up for it.

Lesson: it is possible for EVERYONE to think a little more broadly about the consequences of their actions, the effect they have on other beings, humans and otherwise, as well as the systems they are taking from and giving to with their choices. So please do, enjoy your next bath when you sit down in the nice, warm, sudsy water, but if you can’t think about the equations above, just think about me, and how I’m going to have to limit myself to 3-minute showers (2x/week) for a month when I get home.

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