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Too many nuts…

That was the criticism of the Austrian emperor after listening to a new piece by Mozart, as seen in the film “Amadeus”. This statement perfectly summarizes my feelings this week, after a pitch to a large construction company that wants to save water in new construction. The rejection is etched in my memory: “too luxurious”.

What I don't understand is why you let someone come and pitch about water conservation without preparing. We have been on the market for over ten years, and yet I encounter people who have never heard of the Upfall Shower. My youngest daughter would say, “have you been living under a rock?” During the pitch, there were attendees who had never heard of the Upfall Shower and asked questions that the first customer asked years ago. Incomprehensible.

And then the comment “too luxurious”. Why shouldn't sustainability and luxury go together? Shouldn't people on a more limited budget enjoy a luxurious shower? The Upfall Shower saves an average of 80% on shower water and energy, according to Urgenda.

Innovations are often only embraced by a small group; the rest are afraid of change and even create obstacles. After more than twenty years of working with the Upfall Shower, this is my experience. Smart people dare to change, the masses do not. This country lacks courage, people prefer to sit back in front of the TV every evening, watching programs like the Bauers.

“Too luxurious…” I still can't understand it. An acquaintance, also an innovator, said: swallow it and move on. He knows how it works.

Rene Betgem

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Drinking water companies and the government themselves are responsible for the occurrence of the drinking water crisis.

The summer of 2018 was bone dry and the drinking water companies sounded the alarm: the water pressure could drop due to an impending shortage of drinking water. The media was full of tips for saving water, from collecting shower water to flushing the toilet less. But this problem did not appear out of the blue. It was not only a matter of insufficient drinking water, but also of a growing population and pollution of groundwater and river water.

After 2018, it became increasingly clear that we were heading for a major drinking water problem. The drinking water companies are obliged to supply drinking water as a basic supply. That is of course true, because without water there is no life. So drinking water is a must, but who drinks more than 130 liters of water per day? Because that is the situation in the Netherlands. People have started using more and more drinking water in recent years, a few years ago it was still 120 liters of water per day, now it is no less than 130 liters of water per day and what are the largest water consumers in the house... the toilet and the shower. In the past, the shower was only a simple hand shower, but nowadays the specialty stores are full of rain showers of 20 cm or larger that use considerably more water.

The shower is no longer seen as a way to just stay clean, showering is a moment of relaxation, a moment to withdraw from daily worries. A study by Hans Grohe from a few years ago shows that on average between 88 and 96 liters of water per person per day flows almost unused through the shower drain to the sewer. This makes the shower number 1 in the ranking of water consumers. So you would think that a different way of showering would be the solution and that is possible. This way of showering is called upcycle showering.

The world's first upcycle shower is a Dutch invention by René Betgem from Almere. René, who has had a plumbing business in Almere for 25 years, invented the shower system for his daughters, who took long showers around 2003. It is a fact that teenagers can take a very long shower. Showering is not only a waste of water, but heating shower water also costs a lot of money and heating it also means more CO2 emissions. The Upfall Shower, as René Betgem's system is called, has now been on the market for 10 years and anyone who thinks that his invention was welcomed with open arms is wrong.

In the beginning there was enthusiasm in the press and the innovation world, but that enthusiasm cooled down when Betgem spoke to the former director of Vitens in 2016, who although she thought the product was great, expected problems with her shareholders if she announced that they were invention supported. When Betgem customers received letters from their drinking water company after a year of showering with the Upfall Shower asking why they used so little water, it was clear to him: the drinking water companies were not waiting for his innovation.

The role of the drinking water companies became even clearer when the most sustainable hotel in the Netherlands, Nieuw Leven, wanted to open its doors on Texel with 30 Upcycle showers. ILT immediately showed up, tipped off by Vitens, and imposed a penalty of €40,000 if they used the showers. This was followed by a lawsuit that lasted a few years and a removal from the Environmental List, so that business users could no longer receive a subsidy on the purchase of the Upfall Shower. Ultimately, the judge made a positive ruling for the Upfall Shower and the upcycle showers were put into use at Nieuw Leven on Texel.

Thousands of people now shower every day with the Upcycle shower system and Ikea and Grohe are working on their own recycling shower system. But the attitude of the drinking water companies and the government remains unchanged. After 2018, we see more and more every year how drinking water companies are bending over backwards to meet the demand for sufficient drinking water. In the eyes of the drinking water companies, more water extraction locations should be made available, but now that environmental organizations are also getting involved, that chance seems to be ruled out. We will therefore have to deal with our drinking water differently, and upcycle showering is a good example of this.
The whole world will benefit from this method of showering because it can be used almost anywhere. Not only in houses, but what about hotels, recreational bungalows, B&B, etc. It is known that in hotels the average water use is as much as 190 liters of water per day, so there is a lot to gain there.

Innovations are made by 10% of the people and the rest follow behind or even work against them. Almost everyone is aware that something needs to change, but who is willing to make a sacrifice to push through these innovations, often at the cost of enormous efforts and personal sacrifices? This also applies to René Betgem, who often feels like a voice crying in the desert after 20 years. His driving force has always been his belief in the product and sees this confirmed in the thousands of users of his upcycle shower system.

Betgem recently made another attempt to get its Upfall Shower back on the environmental list and received this answer: “Good that you keep reminding us of your technology. I&W is not convinced that MIA\Vamil support should be used for greywater recycling. This not only affects your technology, but also many other techniques with which gray water recycling can be achieved. As soon as this changes, we will certainly propose to I&W that your technology (and that of others) be included on the Environmental List. Unfortunately, I don't have any better news about that at the moment.

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