For many of us, the prospect of soothing our tired bodies and minds under a long hot shower is a temptation just too good to resist. Students needing to unwind while stressed out during exam season are an excellent example. However, the longer we linger in the shower, the more water simply spirals down the drain. And the question is - Have we ever tried to understand how much water we waste when showering?
“I used to spend 30 - 40 minutes showering every day,” says Ann, a Year 2 Engineering student from UG Hall V. While many experts argue showers lasting over 10 minutes are excessively wasteful, very few of us worry because easy access to safe and clean tap water is something we take for granted.
The new showerheads have helped cut around five minutes off my daily shower times.
To help conserve this precious natural resource, HKUST has recently launched a new Water Conservation Initiative (WCI) and installed 85 smart showerheads in two halls of residence. The pilot project’s ultimate aim is to encourage the halls’ undergraduate residents to shower more responsibly.
“The new showerheads have helped cut around five minutes off my daily shower times,” says Ann whose newfound awareness of wastage means she now saves fully 30L of water daily.
Small changes make a big difference
The heart of the system is an integrated water-powered LED light that changes color in line with actual water usage; going from green when water starts flowing and changing every 10L. Once 30L is consumed (around 4.5 minutes in), the light will urge users to hurry up by turning red.
“I speed up when the light turns purple (the third color) because I know the red light is next,” says Dedrick, a Year 4 Engineering student. “As showers generally run cold before the water turns hot, my conservation tip is to save the cold water in a bucket for other purposes such as watering plants.” He also suggested making the showerheads even smarter by adding pre-red light “beep” audio alerts.
Cutting water consumption to as little as 6.6L per minute, the showerheads’ design is extremely water-efficient. The quoted figure is roughly 26% less than conventional shower units rated Grade 1 by the Hong Kong Water Supplies Department's Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme.
Be the biggest saver and win!
As only collective efforts will guarantee the initiative’s success, saving water is a habit every student should adopt. That said, merely guessing savings is not nearly as impactful as actually seeing them. To keep everyone informed about how much water they’ve saved, the system will soon incorporate a real-time WCI dashboard. Posted online and in participating halls’ lobbies, its regular hall-by-hall consumption updates will include average shower durations and volumes.
|Hall V||Hall VI||Total|
|# of student residents||460||574||1,034|
|# of showerheads||27||58||85|
The newly installed showerheads are now accessible by some 1,034 (22.7%) of our 4,544 hall-based students. Once up and running, the real-time water consumption dashboard will generate data which will provide a useful platform for further enhancements. Specific data will even enable more in-depth study of individual variables. In addition to users’ genders, specific examples include hall culture and how exposure to educational materials is contributing to water consumption patterns. This will in turn also pave the way for the eventual launch of student engagement initiatives such as challenges and a rewards scheme for halls saving the most water.
You pay for water after you use it – not something you can do in the mall or at the grocery store! This is why it is so important to foster good habits in students earlier in life.
Watch this space for more sustainability initiatives!
A key element of the Jockey Club Sustainable Campus Consumer Program (JCSCCP), the WCI’s aim is to slash per capita water consumption by 5%. Based in HKUST’s Sustainability/Net-Zero Office, JCSCCP was officially launched across eight local universities in 2021 with HK$15.68 million of funding from The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust (HKJCCT). As the Project Management Office of JCSCCP, HKUST is working with all member universities to formulate new initiatives aimed at promoting: (1) responsible choices, (2) responsible consumption and (3) responsible consumer activism.
“We don’t typically think of using water in the same light as buying clothes or food, but it is definitely a responsible consumption activity, like those we promote in SDG-12 - Responsible Consumption and Production. The biggest difference is that you pay for water after you use it – not something you can do in the mall or at the grocery store! This is why it is so important to foster good habits in students earlier in life.” says Mr. Davis BOOKHART, Director of HKUST’s Sustainability/Net-Zero Office and Chair of the JCSCCP’s Steering Committee.
Several other ambitious sustainability enhancements are planned for launch later this year. Specific examples include installing electricity smart meters, launching a real-time electricity usage dashboard and developing a bespoke takeaway container lending system. Be sure and watch this space for details!