This argument seems as old as showers themselves, but some consensus has been reached: showers use considerably less water than baths. According to the EPA, the average shower requires 10-25 gallons of water, while a full bath demands 70 gallons.
There are, however, some problems with those numbers. For one, it's rare that anyone completely fills a bathtub. Two, the "full bath" statistic ignores water displacement by the human body itself. Lastly, numbers ignore the fact that baths are so darn therapeutic.
Using those EPA numbers, we can still shrug off my first two rebuttals. Even if displacement and fill levels are taken into account, the average bath would still probably use about 50 gallons of water, five times that of a quick shower. As for the therapeutic nature of bathing, just try to bathe once or twice a week rather than every day.
Furthermore, showers can be more easily controlled. Every time we take a bath, regardless of time spent in the tub, we use the same amount of water. On the contrary, it's easy to regulate our showering time - simply wash a little faster to save water.
On that same note, we can also purchase low-flow shower heads, which deliver much less water at one time than traditional shower heads. Indeed, there are plenty of ways to save water in your bathroom, from the tub to the shower to the sink and toilet.
I decided to scan the internet for the consumer opinion on the matter of shower vs. bath. After navigating forum after forum, I noticed a lot of differing viewpoints. Most seem to agree that it all depends on how long you shower, although it seemed that someone would have to take a fairly long shower to keep up with the water it takes to adequately fill a tub.
I also discovered my peers' number-one test to end all tests (but apparently not controversy) regarding the matter. Simply plug the drain next time you take a shower and note how much the tub fills up with water, as well as how that level compares to your usual water level during a bath. Done.
While there are some rather amazing exceptions to the rule (i.e. people that take hour-long showers), the overwhelming majority agrees that showers save more water than baths. And I agree with them. Numbers and experience back it up. But that doesn't give us license to shower with reckless abandon. Conserving water is a growing concern, not to mention money-saver. So we'd all do well to consider low-flow fixtures in our bathrooms.
One valuable option for all, especially the avid bather, is some natural soap and a greywater system.
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