Can a 5-Minute Shower Ease the California Drought and Get You Clean?

Pandora's 'Water Lover's Station' wants to keep your showers short.

The future is bleak for languid bathers. Long-term droughts, like the one currently turning California into a haystack, are just another inevitable effect of climate change.

Encouraging its citizens to help mitigate the drought’s effects, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has launched The Water Lover’s Station on Pandora, a collection of water-themed songs under five minutes, meant to encourage quick showers. Five minutes is not a long time. When is a girl supposed to think up #showerthoughts?

But at this stage of the drought crisis, saving water is a national duty. It would have been remiss not to try.

Bringing my laptop into my bathroom on day one of my short shower marathon, I hit play, jumped in, and turned the tap. As soon as I heard the insistent synths of Coldplay’s “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall,” a nominally water-themed song that’s actually only four minutes, I knew this was going to be mad hectic and maybe like a third-date mixtape.

I’d wasted all of 15 seconds waiting for the water to heat up, something I did while Chris Martin droned on about dancing children and I struggled to rinse a sudsy 2-in-1 out of my hair. The song was half over by the time I dumped body wash on my loofah, which I never realized took so fucking long to soften. I scrubbed furiously, but I knew by the song’s endlessly repeating hook that Coldplay’s inevitable fadeout was nigh. The song ended before I could even pick up my razor. As Ann Peebles crooned “I Can’t Stand The Rain,” I realized that the short shower sacrifice entailed a toss-up between clean hair and smooth legs. I could always wear pants.

I was still raw from my tough AF loofah on Day 2, and I was determined not to let the same thing happen again. Pandora gave me what seemed like the saddest possible shower jam — The Carpenters’ 3-minute-and-39-second “Rainy Days and Mondays” — but it was, at least, less stressful than Cplay’s attempt at EDM. I tucked my loofah under my arm while I skimped on the shampoo and washed only my roots. I was only half-washed by the time Tommy Morgan’s sweet harmonica solo brought the song to a close. But at least I didn’t feel sunburnt. I was mostly clean. My legs remained brambly.

Pandora stayed sad for the home stretch of my short shower marathon with Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which, at 4 minutes and 53 seconds, seemed luxuriously long. But I wasn’t willing to risk another day of asymmetrical bathing. The hair on my head could wait. I let Paul and Art serenade me as I took up a bar of clean-rinsing soap this time — that loofah was too fucking stressful — and got to work. I never thought I would ever shave my legs to a hymn (“Your time has come to shine!”), but it was at least slow enough that I only cut myself twice.

The five-minute shower may never give you the opportunity to be clean, smooth, and pain-free at the same time, but it does force you to think. I wasn’t just aware of how much water I was using at the time — but the conservation mindset bled into the rest of my day. How much water did I waste brushing my teeth? How much electricity did my blowout really need? Couldn’t I just use the extra water in my kettle to rehydrate my phycus?

Clocking in at 8.2 minutes, the average American shower uses about 17.2 gallons of water. A bathtub holds about 70 gallons. I’d saved 20.1 gallons during my water-saving stint, and my heightened awareness of water wastage has continued, even after I’d given up on Pandora’s soggy-rock selection. Though it takes some getting used to, the five-minute shower definitely provides ample time for a short-haired and/or hairless human to get clean — clean enough, anyway. The sacrifice is worth it.

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