I’m sure all of you have been following the plight of U.S. auto makers. Fingers can be pointed in many directions, and one of them is the fact that GM, Ford and Chrysler are caught between a rock and hard place in being under pressure to produce cars with high fuel efficiency, while car buyers until recently were more in the mood to buy SUVs and other high-profit gas guzzlers. It’s a classic arm wrestling match pitting the invisible hand of the marketplace against the heavy hand of government regulators.

Something similar is playing out in the plumbing industry with the imperative for water conservation going against the popularity of showerheads as big as manhole covers, or a bunch of smaller ones stacked to provide a full-body showering experience. Then there are a lot of folks like me who can live without these ultra-drenchers, but are apt to take longer showers when confronted by a showerhead that does little more than spit. And no matter what spin any marketers try to put on it, spitting is what those 2.5 gpm units feel like. Worse, the environmental crowd would like to reduce that flow still further.   

Our November 2008 edition included aninterview I did with EPA Administrator Dr. Stephen Johnson, who addressed last fall’s ASA Convention in Atlanta. One of the questions I put to Dr. Johnson had to do with this conundrum between the quest for water conservation and the demands of the marketplace. His response was that eventually technology will improve to the point where ultra-low-flow showerheads deliver a satisfying experience.

I’m not so sure. It’s hard to fathom how a little bit of water to cleanse bodily grime with the same thoroughness as a lot more water. Maybe the answer lay in increased pressure, so that tiny jets of water do more scouring, but there has to be a limit to how powerful a spray the engineers can muster before the shower spray transforms from a feeling of spittle to one of needles!

Water conservation is an important quest for our industry. However, showerheads may be one product arena where people ultimately have to choose between conserving and cleansing.