Teague’s Water Experiment

We all know that water is a scarce resource, yet we go about wringing our hands under our faucets and standing under our showers as if the stream is endless. The US Environmental Protection Agency projects a nationwide water shortage in the next 20 years, and the ones guilty of precipitating this scary situation are not just big corporations or heavy industries – our homes use up 66% of the water publicly supplied in the U.S.

The designers at Teague figured that this is because we are blissfully unaware of exactly how much water we use, on a daily basis. In the U.S., water is billed in units of 100 cubic feet (CCF), which translates to increments of 784 gallons. The tiny numbers in CCFs that show up on our water bills actually hide the enormous quantity of water that goes down the drain. So Teague’s interaction designers set up a little experiment.


Rigging up some quick technology, they made each user aware of just how much water they waste when they keep the faucet running. Soon, chastised employees began to turn the faucet off every time they reached for the soap, and the Teague team found they were piling up some pretty cool savings in gallons of H2O.

Teague is now donating their water savings to charity:water, an organization that collects funds to supply water in Africa. Plus, they have started a three-month campaign to raise $10,000 for water charities. Teague will match every dollar donated to their charities, till the target of $10,000 is reached.

This is a very well-intentioned effort that richly deserves your participation. But charity can only go so far in addressing the global water crisis. Point-of-use submetering – through products like the little device rigged up by the team – has great potential. Earlier this year, Pentagram partner Lisa Strausfeld and GE tried to do something similar for electricity consumption, making us aware of just how much energy each appliance in our homes needs. A water and electricity meter in the kitchen will not just be a constant reminder of how much we waste, but also powerful tangible evidence of how much we can save.

Adding gallons and watts to all the numbers we already crunch daily – dollars, calories, megabytes – can be fatiguing. But it will make us into more responsible citizens, and do more in the long term for thirsty people in Africa.

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