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This NASA-inspired shower could lessen the global water crisis

Thu, 11/14/2013 - 12:28pm
Allegra Sparta, Editorial Intern

Growing up in a rural area I learned to expect cries of “Turn that shower off, you’ll run the well dry!” while getting cleaned up for school. Having a well was the price you’d pay for living in the middle of nowhere, away from a reservoir-supplied water source. But apart from my teenage battles, a real problem lurks, one of global proportions. The recent typhoon that wreaked havoc on the Philippines also shed light on several pressing issues, notably the lack of drinkable water for survivors. For many underdeveloped countries, this is a year round problem that only becomes exacerbated in times of natural disaster. Mehrdad Mahdjoubi, a Swedish industrial designer, believes that it’s never too early to start using resources more wisely. This belief led to the creation of the OrbSys Shower that saves water as well as money by recycling it as you bathe.

The shower functions on a “closed loop system,” pumping hot water from the drain through a purifier and back through the showerhead in a very quick cycle that requires only a slight reheating after purification. This system uses only 5 liters of water per shower, as opposed to a typical shower that uses 150, an overall saving of 90% in water and 80% in energy.

Orbital Systems, Mahdjoubi’s company, hopes that this eco-friendly shower will enable consumers in developed countries to do their part in water conservation. This project began when Mahdjoubi was working in conjunction with NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Here, engineers, scientists, and other inventors produce products and devices that could aid astronauts in space explorations. The shower employs the same technology that astronauts on long missions could use, as a constant stream of “new” water is impossible to have when you’re hurtling towards the Moon. If this technology is available for space explorations, why not make it available to consumers at a more reasonable price?

While this shower is more expensive than the conventional one on display in Home Depot, it’s one of those products that “pays for itself” like other green investments such as hybrid cars or solar panels. If the environmental benefits aren’t enticing, there’s the (roughly) $1300 savings in energy costs on average per year that could persuade people to make the purchase.

Mahdjoubi sees a big philanthropic future for his product. The same technology that permits bathing with clean, potable water can be applied to drinking fountains and spigots which can be installed in developing countries where water shortages are commonplace. The OrbSys Shower is the shower of the future that can save money, energy, and most importantly, lives.

 

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