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National Standards for Taking Showers

The idea of federally-regulated showers is the latest proof that our country has lost its way with respect to federalism. Federalism should lead to coordination, not subordination. In considering action at the national level, we should always ask two questions:

1. must we do this? there are lots of good ideas… in fact, for almost anything you can think of, even horrible things, I’m sure I can find at least a dozen Americans who think it’s a great idea – a ‘must-have’… we should set a really high bar where the necessity of a law or program is concerned

2. must the federal government do this? of those things that we ‘must’ do, very few actually have to be done at the national level… the federal government is only capable of handing down one-size-fits-all solutions… in the vast majority of cases, our needs are better met at the local and state level, or by avoiding government all together

There are lots of examples, but this one came to light this week… the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants hotels to monitor how much time guests spend in the shower. They have a pilot program to create a wireless system that tracks how much water a hotel guest uses to get them to “modify their behavior.” The project was filed under “Water conservation,” “Urban water planning,” and “Sustainable water management.”

I’m all for conservation, but this hardly seems like an essential function of the national government… maybe it’s a good idea, but must we do it? It’s also something that is more effectively done elsewhere…. even if this is a ‘must-have’, can we say that only the federal government can pull it off? Many state and local governments already, unnecessarily, address this. The most effective approaches are those taken by hotel brands and their trade associations. They’ve been working on this for years. They are incentivized by the fact that water is a cost of business. They understand the problem and possible solutions better than anyone. The government’s efforts are, at best, a bad solution in search of a non-existent problem.

Unfortunately, government programs never die. Here’s a prediction: within five years, this ‘pilot program’ will lead to a new federal regulatory regime. Hotels will be burdened with new reporting requirements. The federal government will add staff to read the reports and make new reports that will always lead to the conclusion that we need more regulation and government bureaucrats. The regulatory regime will be supported by new fees, perhaps penalties, which hotels will pass on to you and me. Toward the end of this five-year period, the federal government will start mandating specific types of shower hardware; hotels will be required to spend millions retrofitting to meet government standards. Think that’s unlikely? They already do it for toilet seats, kitchen utensils, and pretty much any aspect of human thought or behavior you can think of… there will be no end to the stupidity.



  1. They actually do regulate the shower heads, here at least. We used to put one shower head in until after inspection, then replace it with a better one.


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