In a time when water conservation increasingly is becoming a top-of-mind issue, showers remain a guilty pleasure even for many of the eco-conscious. After toilets and clothes washers, showers are the third-largest water hogs in an average U.S. home — a typical eight-minute shower uses around 20 gallons of water, according to the Alliance for Water Efficiency.
With states such as California dealing with historic droughts, many are cutting their showers shorter to help reduce water consumption. And this may be the new “normal” — California’s record-low snowpack this year is at its lowest in more than 500 years, according to a paper published this month in the journal, Nature Climate Change.
California relies on this snowpack for up to a third of its water supply, and warming conditions means that the state will be unable to retain enough precipitation even if the expected El Niño season dumps water on the parched state. NASA estimates it will take around 11 trillion gallons of water — about 1.5 times the maximum volume of the largest U.S. reservoir — to recover fully from this drought.
But what if you could take an eight-minute or longer shower while using significantly less water? That may soon be possible, thanks to a San Francisco startup called Nebia.
The Nebia shower head uses specialized nozzles to atomize water into millions of tiny droplets, resulting in 70 percent less water consumption than a typical nozzle, the company says, and is engineered to release droplets at different sizes and speeds. The total surface area of all of the Nebia droplets is ten times greater than the total surface area of larger droplets emitted by a regular shower head.
Moving the company to San Francisco, Andonaegui and his partner, Philip Winter, brought on Gabriel Parisi-Amon, who was working at Apple on the iPhone, as the third co-founder, chief technology officer and chief operating officer.
One possible hitch is the shower head's hefty price tag — Nebia currently retails at $399 each.
“We took a similar approach to Tesla in our development process, focusing foremost on designing a great sustainable product of the highest quality,” a spokesperson for Nebia told Sustainable Brands, explaining the high price tag. “This involves high research and tooling cost. We will over time find less expensive and more efficient processes that will bring costs down.”
The company says its ultimate vision is to bring down Nebia’s costs so that it is accessible to people all over the world, including the global South, where the concept originated.
The company recently concluded a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, raising more than $3 million, blowing by its initial $100,000 goal almost immediately. The shower head even received investments from Apple’s Tim Cook and Google’s Eric Schmidt.
“People are open to new ideas, especially when they foster savings without having to compromise on any dimension," Nebia told Sustainable Brands. "The shower is a product that everyone uses every day, yet it’s obvious to see how wasteful it is. We built a product that is ubiquitous and brought innovation to a fairly forgotten product, and we think that resonated deeply with people.”
The company says it plans to use the new funds for manufacturing, the development of tools and quality control. Its priority, however, is to deliver on its promise to backers and send them their Nebia as soon as possible.