Ah, that long, steamy shower! Few things in life provide such instant gratification. Plentiful hot water is as American as apple pie without the calories. Housing five percent of the world's population, however, we consume an estimated 15 percent of its available water supply. And 60 percent of our home water usage takes place in the bathroom, according to the California Urban Water Conservation Council.

Why should we care?  While the Earth's actual water supply never changes—something to do with its perpetual cycling from ocean to evaporated gas to rain to watersheds—unpolluted water fit for drinking and, yes, showering, is being used up in many areas faster than it can be replenished. In addition to overuse, global warming will lead to more water shortages, according to the International Panel on Climate Change.

We'd never dream of saying we should give up showers. But to preserve our shower rights in the long term, we can practice a bit of water conservation, and save money on those water utility bills. It's easy. Here are three simple things you can do today.

1) Keep showers to five minutes or less, advises the EPA. This should include "warm-up" flow, which wastes an average 3.5 gallons. Crank a kitchen timer to five minutes and place it in the bathroom. Maybe you'll surprise yourself and beat the bell. If taking a five-minute shower sounds like a daunting task, take a graduated approach. Every two minutes you reduce your shower time saves almost 350 pounds of global warming CO2 emissions a year.

2) Replace your showerhead with a high-efficiency model. While government standards now restrict individual shower head flow to no more than 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm), you can do a lot better with a high efficiency model that puts out 1.6 gpm. Fear not the dreaded dribble! Advances in design that manipulate pressurization and the size of water droplets give the feel of a normal flow. The Delta H20 kinetics showerhead is $55, or try the pennywise Niagara Earth Massage, $5.25.

3) Lower your water heater thermostat from 140 to 120 degrees F, and you’ll save almost 500 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions a year. This trick saves water because half a gallon of is lost for every kilowatt hour of power generated by coal-burning power plants, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

For more water-saving tips, go to the EPA's new water-saving website, and see CUWCC's water-saving house.

This article originally appeared in Plenty in April 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

April showers of savings
Try to limit daily showers to five minutes and keep those long, luxuriant ones to a minimum.