Saving Water, One Shower at a Time

Shower meter active intervention device
Active intervention device
 passive intervention poster
Passive intervention poster

Two students, juniors Meg Davis and Rhada Dave, have developed a device to measure water usage in dorm showers. They used an $1,800 grant from the Sustainability, Innovation and Engagement Fund (SIEF) to create a prototype for their project.

The two began envisioning their creation back in spring 2018. After brainstorming ideas for an assignment in their Global Challenges, Scientific Solutions class, Davis, a biology major, jokingly suggested they measure water usage and shower times. Two years later, after countless hours of observation, research and tracking the water flow through shower pipes, the students are soon debuting their product in the Commonwealth Honors College dorm showers. The preliminary data collected suggests that they should be able to reduce water usage in the dorms by about 42 percent.

The testing will take place on three floors, using one floor as a control with no form of intervention in the showers, a second floor with 10 passive intervention posters and a third with 10 active intervention devices. The passive intervention poster is visible to studentsand displays how much water the average shower uses. The active intervention device has a button that students push to start a visual timer tracking the length of the shower and how much water is being used. All 30 showers (passive, active and control) have sensors that are discrete, logging how much water runs throughout the shower onto a microSD card.

Dave, a student on the neuroscience track, says, “I thought it was pretty interesting to see if one device could actually have some degree of behavioral change and have that impact a third part, like water consumption.”

Over the next couple of weeks, Davis and Dave hope to begin installing the devices in the bathrooms, where they will remain until the end of the Spring 2020 semester. The students hope to continue this project their senior year as a part of their iCons senior thesis.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of items about the latest “green idea” projects around campus to receive grants from the Sustainability, Innovation and Engagement (SIEF) Fund. Launched in 2013, the SIEF program aims to foster sustainability by financially supporting students, faculty and staff who propose projects to promote a greener campus.