Rain patterns are changing all over the planet. Being in the fifth year of a drought, Southern California is acutely aware of this indispensable resource and our lack of it. Santa Barbara has cut its non-agricultural water consumption by 35 percent. If we can cut usage even more, we can minimize additions to our water supply from the most costly, most energy intensive sources such as desalinization or the California State Water Project.
A promising development that can help cut water consumption even more is the atomizer mist technology. Nozzles harnessing this technology can be attached to most faucets or the concept can be incorporated into showerheads. The Swedish firm Altered has created a simple device that atomizes tap water into a fine mist. Although simple, it has been years in development. The result, per the company, “is a 98 percent reduction in water use, with no loss in functionality.” Although using only about two percent of the flow from a tap with no flow restrictor, the dispersion of millions of tiny droplets of water created by the high spread mist, makes it as effective in performing tasks like washing hands, cleaning a toothbrush or rinsing vegetables, or, for that matter, doing most other tap-related tasks.
At times, more water is needed more quickly than the atomizer can provide. Because it takes minutes to fill a glass or a pasta pot with water in the mist mode, the nozzle can easily be switched to a higher volume flow, called the Saver mode. This mode increases the flow to almost a gallon (0.8 gal) per minute. Since, on average, about 18 percent of household water consumption is through sink faucets, retrofitting with these small, attractive devices could reduce overall household water usage by 15 percent or more.
Another recently developed product using the same atomizing approach is the Nebia showerhead. Produced in the U.S., it similarly disperses water into millions of microscopic droplets to create 10 times more surface area than a regular shower’s water pattern, while saving 70 percent of water in the process. It has a built in multi-layer filter to catch sediment and other solid buildup. The Nebia comes with a wall-mounted bracket that allows the showerhead to be adjusted vertically or even detaches completely to be used as a portable unit.
Both of these devices — new players in the strategic game to make more efficient use of our available water resources — show great potential as they move into the marketplace.