Perhaps bathing isn’t always an advantage.

On Tuesday afternoon, members of the Friends of the Earth Middle East grassroots environmental organization stood on the corner of Rothschild and Sheinkin streets in Tel Aviv, distributing free hourglasses so Israelis could easily time their showers – which the group says should be no longer than four minutes in total. Members of the team handed out several hundred of the hourglasses – which usually cost NIS 5 – in honor of International Water Day, established by the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1993 and marked on March 22.

“That way we’d save a lot of water,” said Gidon Bromberg, director of Friends of the Earth Middle East. “About a third of the water we consume at home is in the shower.”

Another third, Bromberg noted, is consumed by flushing the toilet.

Each year, International Water Day has a different theme. Last year was geared toward improving water quality, 2009 supported trans-boundary “shared” waters, and 2008 was about water sanitation, according to the official World Water Day 2011 website. This year’s theme: “Water for Cities: Response to the Urban Challenge.”


“[Reducing shower time] is the easiest thing that every individual can do at really no cost to him- or herself,” said Bromberg.

His group often advocates for water preservation, last week in the form of Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian children writing songs together about the Jordan River.

The organization got an excellent reception among Tel Aviv urbanites, according to Bromberg, who expressed hope that some of them would heed the call for shorter showers. Group members had individual conversations with each person before exchanging an hourglass for verbal commitment to making use of the device at home.

“People understand that there’s a serious problem, and people want to do something about it,” he said. “If we empower people to save, they’re going to welcome it. These shower timers were certainly a big success.”

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