EPA May Force Hotels to Monitor Shower Use

Published May 1, 2015

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing hotels monitor the length of time their guests use the shower.

The agency is spending $15,000 to create a wireless system with the ability to track how much water hotel guests use in order to encourage them to modify their behavior voluntarily.

“Hotels consume a significant amount of water in the U.S. and around the world,” reads an EPA grant to the University of Tulsa. “Most hotels do not monitor individual guest water usage and as a result, millions of gallons of potable water are wasted every year by hotel guests.

“The proposed work aims to develop a novel low-cost wireless device for monitoring water use from hotel guest room showers,” the grant statement says. “This device will be designed to fit most new and existing hotel shower fixtures and will wirelessly transmit hotel guest water usage data to a central hotel accounting system.”

EPA already has WaterSense, a program encouraging hotels to track their water use, upgrade restrooms with low-flow toilets and showerheads, and encourage guests to reuse their linens and towels.

EPA has expressed concern the average shower lasting eight minutes uses 18 gallons of water. The agency wants hotel guests to reduce their average shower length by at least one minute.

Hey Big Brother, Pass the Soap

Seton Motley, president of the public policy organization Less Government, says regulators at EPA are creating work for themselves, devising new, subtle-but-annoying ways to regulate people’s lives.

“How on Earth do they know how long you should spend in the shower?” Motley said. “They don’t want to do the dirty work of actually telling us how long we can remain in the shower, so they are going to make the hotels do it. That way, the guests won’t be mad at the EPA; they will be mad at the hotels. It’s insidious how they are using private industry against itself.”

Motley says he wonders why EPA is building a tracking system for hotel water use if the ultimate goal is not to control guests’ water use.

“Once these tracking systems are installed, the next step will be to limit the amount of water hotel patrons get to use,” said Motley.

Angela Logomasini, a senior fellow in Environmental Risk, Regulation, and Consumer Freedom issues at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agrees with Motley’s assessment.

“This is just another outrageous example of the nanny-state mentality,” Logomasini said. “If the government is going to start monitoring your shower time in hotels, I’m afraid to think of what might be next.” 

Unpleasant Infringement, No Benefit

Systems monitoring and reporting to a central location how much water a particular guest uses could diminish a customer’s hotel experience.

“While it is justified for hotels to track overall water use in the building as a way of monitoring costs, tracking at a more granular level would not bring additional benefits from an economic standpoint,” said Gennady Stolyarov, editor-in-chief of The Rational Argumentator.

Stolyarov says many guests will consider it an unpleasant infringement of their privacy to know their time in the shower is tracked.

“Hotels would do well to consider how their customers would respond before choosing to participate in the EPA’s program,” Stolyarov said.

“The key issue here is whether the individual has a choice,” Stolyarov said. “Any tracking of water use should always, and only, be on an opt-in basis.

“Even worse is the EPA’s push for hotels to ‘upgrade’ perfectly good facilities with low-flow toilets and showerheads,” Stolyarov said. “These are not upgrades but regressions toward the pre-sanitation era. Excessive zeal in the quest for water conservation leads to attempts to cause people to scrimp on necessities.” 

Health Risks Cited

Stolyarov says the forced regression to earlier water-use patterns creates unnecessary health risks.

“The EPA and environmentalist activists forget regular access to and use of running water and flush toilets, devices allowing a strong flow of water, helped facilitate massive declines in infectious diseases during the 20th century, in addition to making life generally more pleasant,” Stolyarov said. “Unfortunately, some people do not appreciate the immense improvements in quality of life that these devices have brought for so many.” 

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) is managing editor of Health Care News.