In many parts of the developing world, limited water resources and the necessities of survival outweigh the luxury of taking a warm shower on a daily basis. In the worst cases, a lack of clean water and hygienic bathing facilities can spread disease. However, the developing world is also littered with the remnants of high-tech "solutions" gone wrong, and projects abandoned due to lack of replacement parts and experienced technicians. Over the decades, experience has often shown that the best solution to a problem is the simplest one.
In the spirit of simplicity and sustainable development, Irish designer Michael Kilbane has developed a remarkably low-tech concept for an affordable solar-heated shower, using inexpensive materials readily available in the developing world. Unlike some of the fancier solar showers we've seen, Kilbane keeps it simple, using a 5-gallon water jug (painted black), a rope, a simple pulley system and a shower tray or basin.
The black paint allows the water to absorb heat from the sun. The "shower head" consists of 48 2-millimeter holes punched in the bottom of the water jug, with a pressure release valve at the top to stop the flow of water. The holes are small enough to prevent water from leaking out, as long as the valve is closed (see video).
Once the value is opened, the jug releases water at a rate of 1.4 liters per minute, providing a 16-minute, solar-heated shower. According to Kilbane, the shower improves personal hygiene, is easy to use and makes smart use of limited water supplies in the developing world. It can also be constructed from readily available materials, using local labor. Kilbane envisions that the product could even be used to launch a small business.