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To pee or not to pee?

Tue, 14 Oct 2014

Two university students are testing the water with a new approach to environmentalism on campus - by campaigning for people to wee while taking their daily shower to save water.

The contentious campaign, called #gowiththeflow, is the idea of University of East Anglia (UEA) students Debs Torr and Chris Dobson.

It was inspired by the success of Brazilian eco-group 'SOS Mata Atlântica', who encouraged people to urinate during their first shower of the day to save the 12 litres of water used each time a toilet is flushed.

With East Anglia receiving a third less rainfall on average than the rest of England, combined with one of the highest rates of housing development, it is hoped UEA students can help contribute to reducing water wastage.

The two students are representing UEA in Npower's national Future Leader's Challenge, encouraging students to come up with an environmental initiative on campus. They form one of two UEA teams in the final, where they are competing against 28 other individuals to go to the Amazon Rainforest to work with the Kaxinawá tribe.

Chris said: "We've done the maths, and this project stands to have a phenomenal impact. With 15,000 students at UEA, over a year we would save enough water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool 26 times over. Imagine how big an impact it could have if we could get everyone in East Anglia, or even the UK, to change their morning habits!

"The trouble is, most people don't realise that we use fresh water much faster than it can be naturally replenished."

Reactions to the campaign have been mixed, but it is already getting people talking about the benefits of the scheme, and other ways of saving water.

"The campaign has been really divisive - people either seem to love it or hate it," added Chris. "But that's exactly what we want. We're trying to challenge conventional behaviour; to start a debate on a resource that we largely take for granted."

To encourage people to get on board, Chris and Debs are offering 15 £10 vouchers to people willing to declare on Facebook or Twitter that they wee in the shower, using the hastag '#gowiththeflow'.

The campaign can be followed on Facebook and Twitter at and '@npgowiththeflow'

Saving water - the figures
The potential savings were worked out based on the water for an average flush costing 2p. That works out at about £7.30 per year for each person, if they were to save one flush per day.
• UEA could save £18,000 per year if all students on-campus took part.
• The Student population could save £125,000 in total per year.
• If everyone in East Anglia took part, they could save £42.5 million in total per year, or 70 million litres of water.
• If everyone in the UK took part, they could save £430 million in total per year, or 720 million litres of water.