Water Watch NYC

Everything you need to know about water in NYC.


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The Nebia Shower System: Worth the Hype?

Nebia_08-08-17_02-3The Nebia shower system attracted a lot of attention when it launched on Kickstarter in 2015.  The product was backed by companies including Apple, Google, and Equinox, and reached its Kickstarter funding goal within a matter of hours.  The product supposedly uses 70% less water than a standard shower while still providing sufficient water pressure and heat.  Kickstarter backers began receiving their Nebia showers in early 2017.  Here at Ashokan Water Services, our Nebia arrived in June, and now it’s time to see if it lives up to the hype!  The product has been reviewed by tech nerds, business people, lifestyle bloggers, fashion writers, and more.  Here’s the opinion of water conservation and management specialists.

I never thought too much about my showers until now, but I can say for certain that many either used too much water, or had terrible water pressure.  My point of comparison for the ideal shower is my shower-head at home, which is round and flat with decently sized holes such that water pressure is just right and the water retains heat.  There is nothing worse than water pressure so strong it might as well be from a power washer, or so weak it might as well be from a misting fan found along a queue in an amusement park.  A good shower should also have a gradual temperature range- not just a freezing and a burning setting.  Finding the perfect water temperature should never be frustrating.  I’m curious to see where the Nebia falls on this spectrum of pressure and temperature controls.

As the Nebia shower was originally intended to target water scarcity issues in the developing world, I feel that it is appropriate to compare a Nebia shower to an actual shower in the developing world in terms of experience, design, and water usage.  I once spent a month living in a small city in Nicaragua called El Sauce, in which there was only running water for a few hours each day.  For a city with relatively limited water access, every act of water consumption used a great deal of water (notably, the shower).  It struck me as strange that the shower in my humble home did not have a shower-head.  There was no bother to break water up into droplets; instead a waterfall-like deluge rinsed me of sweat and dirt, then consequently of shampoo, conditioner, and soap.  There was never an ounce of soapy residue on my skin or in my hair, which in my opinion is the sign of a successful shower.  However, this successful cleansing was only achieved by using a lot of water.

Water is rationed in El Sauce as a conservation effort, for the area often experiences drought.  It would be amazing if a product like the Nebia shower system, if installed at a large scale, could allow similar communities to run water throughout the day. If Nebia succeeds, perhaps it really can solve some of the world’s water problems.  Perhaps it can standardize the shower experience, creating some sort of shower utopia.  But showers are an extremely subjective matter, and for now, I will have to find out for myself if I think Nebia can inspire a global shift in shower norms, creating a world in which a shower in Brooklyn and a shower in El Sauce are exactly the same.

One of the most common and understandable complaints about the Nebia shower system is the price.  When we purchased our Nebia at Ashokan, it cost around $400.  In New York City (with water priced at $0.013 a gallon according to Nebia’s website) a single person taking one eight-minute shower every day will break even in water and heat savings after four years of use.  A household of four, taking one shower each per day, can cover the cost in savings in just one year.  However, the current price of a Nebia shower system on the official website, which is the only retailer for the product, is a whopping $649.  It would now take one person about six and a half years to make up cost in savings, and it would take a family of four about a year and a half.  Nebia released a statement in March that the price of their product will eventually rise to $699.  Making the switch from a traditional shower-head is pricey, but Nebia offers a monthly payment plan which hopefully makes the product more attractive to prospective customers.

With all of this in mind, I prepare myself to try the Nebia shower system.  I have done extensive research, and read countless product reviews.  I am expecting to be shocked, maybe even confused, by the feeling of tiny, atomized water droplets on my skin and the all-encompassing, cloud-like immediate wetness.  I am not able to wrap my mind around these sensations.  Folks on the internet have very mixed opinions about whether or not the Nebia shower is capable of getting the rinsing job done.  One of these opinion groups must be doing something wrong (too much soap, or not enough?), so I need to see for myself.  There are also many complaints about the fact that the main shower head does not turn off when the wand is in use. We were questioning whether this was a feature or a flaw in our device, since showers generally have an option for the wand to be used alone.  My research has confirmed that the simultaneous use of wand and shower head is intended, making this a feature, not a flaw. But what does this mean in terms of water use? If the product is designed for conservation, having the option to use the wand alone seems practical.

Using the Nebia shower system is unlike using any other shower I’ve encountered.  Despite my research findings, I was skeptical about whether or not this thing was going to be warm or able to clean effectively.  But I was proven very wrong!  It is extremely important to note that the distance between the shower and your head will make or break the experience.  If the shower-head is too high up, the water is not warm by time it reaches you.  The hottest water is at the source, so the closer you are to the shower-head, the warmer the shower.  I was impressed at how easily adjustable the neck is.  It slides effortlessly to any height (being a mere five feet tall, I had to move it quite far down), with no notches or knobs involved in the adjustment process.  The magnetic design of the wand is excellent as well, allowing for easy grabbing and storing.  In terms of experience, I didn’t mind that the wand could only be used simultaneously with the shower-head.  It was nice for rinsing my legs, since the main stream of water becomes mistier and less effective at rinsing as it descends.

There are two water settings, one using slightly more water than the other.  I found that both had more than adequate pressure, but the higher setting made the shower feel slightly warmer.  I successfully rinsed myself of shampoo, conditioner, and soap.  My hair and skin feel refreshed and soft!  Because the water droplets are so tiny and are forced from the nozzle at high speed, it almost felt like warm air was being blown onto my scalp.  This windy sensation was pretty relaxing, but did rustle the shower curtain a bit, which was slightly annoying.  My only true complaint is that water got all over the floor outside the shower.  However, this is a very easy problem to fix! If you don’t have a shower with a door, I would recommend weighted shower curtains that stay in place.  If you have a bathtub, this is likely less of an issue for the walls would contain the mist that otherwise sneaks its way onto the floor.  Although the floor was wet, the rest of the bathroom was totally dry.  There was no steamy condensation on my glasses which were sitting nearby, and my clothing which was hung in the bathroom stayed perfectly dry.

Moreover, the concept and execution of the Nebia shower system is truly revolutionary.  The experience is enjoyable, and the product is beautifully designed.  The steep price is certainly a drawback, and I commend those who have taken the initiative to make the investment already.  In a day and age where conservation should be a top priority, I truly hope Nebia can be successful such that the creators are able to achieve their initial goal of delivering an affordable solution to water scarcity issues globally.  Here at Ashokan, where our goal is to save water and money, we would love to see Nebia shower system become both an affordable product and the norm for shower water consumption.


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NYC Energy & Water Use Report

Ashokan Water Services, Inc.  is honored to consult for the Urban Green’ New York City’s Energy and Water Use 2013 Report August 2016 Edition.

The report analyzes NYC water bench marking data and calculates the water usage to a variety of water heating systems. A study conducted by New York State concluded that one-pipe heating systems using more water than hydronic and vacuum steam heating systems. The study recommended that all one-pipe systems should be removed and replaced with hydronic systems to save water.

Urban Green CoucilAshokan’s analyst concluded that this is an erroneous correlation. There are a number of factors that can affect the water consumption of one-pipe systems such as malfunctioning pipes and unexpected leaks.

Rather than replacing the one-pipe system, one could easily install a meter to measure the water flow and to fix any leaks when detected; thus providing a frugal answer to a simple problem.

Ashokan Services would like to thank the Urban Green Council for providing the opportunity to contribute data and be included in their research.

For Ashokan, this is one more achievement on the path towards universal water conservation.

I would like to congratulate Hershel Weiss and Vadhil Amadiz for their diligent research; we all hope for more accomplishments in the future.


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Alfonso Carney Chairs Water Board Hearing — June 16th, 2017

Alfonso Carney
Alfonso Carney chairs water board meeting at which Hershel Weiss presented the following testimony:

“Hershel Weiss, President of Ashokan Water Services, Inc., which represents the owners of 8,500 buildings in NYC, who look to Ashokan for water conservation, bill monitoring and guidance through Water Board/DEP’s regulations.

  1. We object to the 2 items on today’s agenda. The NYC Water Board/DEP has done an excellent job of providing water and sewer service while keeping charges lower by sticking to its mission and only spending the money paid by its customers to actually provide and maintain water & sewer infrastructure etc, and by not diverting that money to anything outside its charter and purpose, such as pet causes of politicians.  Think of the way the Port Authority builds skyscrapers with the toll money that is supposed to maintain bridges and tunnels which are now falling into disrepair while there is nothing left in the till to pay for their maintenance.  If the Water Board is permitted to follow in the footsteps of such outfits and divert the money paid by customers for water/sewer use, soon the WB/DEP will just be another handy, cash-cow for politicians.  The infrastructure will suffer, funds will dwindle, and charges will skyrocket because customers will not just be paying for water and sewer use, but also to support pork-barrel handouts to whomever it pleases our City fathers to hand them out to.  We therefore strongly oppose the proposed giveaways on today’s agenda and demand the Water Board use any surplus monies—which are really easy enough to spend—on projects to provide water and sewer service to its customers.
  2. This brings me to a directly related matter. The storm-water fees the DEP charges parking lots were instituted as a ‘pilot-program’, meaning it was supposed to be a temporary experiment whereby the Water Board would study the benefits of such a program and its effects on storm-water conservation.  A report with findings was supposed to be generated, from which would arise either a recommendation to maintain or modify the program subject to approval in the usual manner, or else the program would be dropped.  Where is the report and what are the findings?  Why is the program still in effect?  If the DEP cannot support it with evidence from the experts who were supposed to monitor this study and get it approved at a hearing, it must be dropped.
  3. We also need clarification on the matter of compliance with MCP requirements. The DEP has not been enforcing the deadlines in effect under the Rate Schedule—we know it was the DEP’s intent last year to extend them, but the Court struck the proposed rate schedule and ordered the previous years’ to remain in effect.  Under its terms, the grace period for Automatically Enrolled properties to install DEP approved meters and AMR devices, and/or the required, high efficiency fixtures, expired on June 30, 2016, and these properties were to have been converted to Attributed Consumption Charges or metered billing.  Yet the DEP has not enforced this deadline, to our knowledge.  This has left your customers confused as to what the requirements truly are, and we request you state what they are in an official memo.
  4. Likewise, there is no consistent rule as to whether an MCP applicant with a mixed use building is required to separately meter the commercial portions with a downstream, BP meter, or by splitting the main. The rate schedule does not specify which is required.  The DEP has variously required the split or permitted the downstream BPs, and without any application for a variance.

    On this matter, we again request you state what rule is in an official memo.”

 

 


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Water is the Life of NYC

water_main    Created in 2008, the “Water is the Life of NYC” mural is the pride of Park Slope. Painted upon the side of 209 4th Avenue between Union and Sackett Streets, this mural depicts the ongoing water cycle of New York City from its origins in the rural provinces of New York State to the myriad of destinations throughout the more urban areas of New York.

Colorful, vibrant, and lively as the abundance of New Yorkers who pass this wall each day, the mural brings a small reminder to the people about where their clean and top-quality water derives from.  Illustrating the process by which NYC maintains its running water system, the mural brings awareness to the public about the precious and often overlooked part of our lives which we tend to forget how vital it truly is.

Spreading across the side of 290 4th Avenue, the mural depicts the origins of water as a romanticized view of Mother Nature in the form of billowing white clouds with flowing hair made of vapor. A flow of water is generously released from Mother Nature’s hands which fall into two reservoirs which service New York State, the Catskills and the Croton. The water, after its journey from the country, reservoirs and dam finally arrives at the faucet in which New Yorkers use for their daily use.

The lower left side of the mural shows the miners (affectionately known as “the Sandhogs”) create and maintain the water tunnels which bring water..

As seen with the figure filling up his bottle from the fountain, the mural itself promotes the use of reusable water bottles. Reusable water bottles are a great way to protect the environment instead of using single-use plastic bottles which are usually not completely recycled and ends up in our landfills and water systems. With this message, this mural hopes to show New Yorkers the cycle of our water in how we obtain it, use it, and protect it.

Ashokan is proud to be located in a community that expresses its love and respect for water.


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NYC Reservoir Level

Last weeks rain barely hit the Catskills. The small amount of moisture fell on dry soil, and was quickly absorbed. New York’s reservoir level keeps dropping. It now stands at 56.8%. How low can the reservoirs go before the city becomes concerned and declares a drought?


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Mayor de Blasio Assigns DEP Acting Commissioner

imageMayor de Blasio appointed Vincent Sapienza as acting Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner earlier this month to replace the departing Emily Lloyd. Sapienza has been dragged to the front row as a figurehead representing the DEP after maintaining a non-political post in charge of the DEP’s infrastructure.

The boots Sapienza will be stepping into will no doubt be muddy. Emily Lloyd left behind a number of major challenges that need to be addressed immediately.

The first challenge is the absence of the water rate increase. For the first time since 1995, the water rate increase was revoked by court.   How will the Water Board balance its budget if New York City citizens won’t be charged more for water? This is great news for the people but what will happen to the dynamics of political funds?

Another challenge Sapienza will duel with are concerns the Multi-family Conservation Program (MCP) applications. MCP allows flat-rate billing of water bills for buildings with four or more apartments. The MCP program can help save water but thousands of MCP applications are backed up and the MCP guidelines are being ignored. Is the DEP withholding from processing these applications because they know they will lose money?

These problems presented require a permanent commissioner, not from an acting commissioner.  I strongly urge Mayor de Blasio to appoint Vincent Sapienza to be the permanent DEP commissioner so these issues can be dealt with. This is a time of crisis for the DEP, the DEP’s reputation and trust from the people are at stake and we need someone with a firm grip on the steering wheel, not an acting commissioner.

 


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Victory for Taxpayers of New York

Just short of a week ago, Supreme Justice Carol Edmead voided the Water Board and City Hall’s authority to impose a water rate hike for this year as well as terminated the program to reimburse small homeowners on their water bill credit.

Citing unfair and preferential distribution of funds, the city of New York and the Water Board were stopped in their tracks by the people of New York.

Thanks should be given to Joseph Strasburg of the Rent Stabilization Association who fought against City Hall and the Water Board for this win for the people of New York.

Further applause should be given to Justice Edmead who is protecting the taxpayers of New York and our fragile water system from the greedy hands of politicians.