Hot, Long Showers? Not in Ireland

There is a popular phrase that I have grown up hearing that says, “After traveling to a different country, you will realize all of the things that you take for granted day-to-day.” It was not until coming to Ireland, my first time truly out of the country, did I realize the validity of this statement. Ireland is a beautiful country that holds many wonders yet the shower system in the country side is not as wonderful.

After almost two full days of traveling to get to Ireland, all that I wanted to do when I got to the hostel was take a nice shower. Since it was hostel living I was not expecting the best accommodations but I was hoping for some warm water to shower in. I was quite disappointed when I jumped into the shower. There was no way to change the temperature and every ten or so seconds, you had to push a button so the water would continue to flow. This was a system put in place in attempt to save water. Something I had not been familiar with.

I expected that once we got out of the Ecovillage, our first stop on the trip, that the shower situation would go back to normal. I was quite wrong. Each place either did not have a dial to change the temperature of the water, or the water would not continuously run. Every night I either came out of the shower with blue lips or scalding hot skin. It was even more interesting when we arrived at our hostel in Inis Oirr. While the shower was probably the cleanest of all, we had to conserve water in order to avoid a water shortage on the island. The reason for the water shortages was because there is no natural running water on the island. In order to get water to the island, a boat comes over each day with tanks of water to supply the island’s running water system.

A shower is an element of the day that is often taken for granted. It is what many people use to wake up or fall asleep, and of course to feel clean. It is incredible to realize what a difference in your day it makes when you do not have this luxury. It is even more impressive to see how so many people, who live in the country side, are willing to give away this luxury because they all believe in forming a healthy and non-wasteful environment.

Boat that delivers water to Inis Oirr daily

Every Drop Counts

I go to take my first shower in the Eco-Village in the small village of Cloughjordan, my first experience with water in Ireland. There is a shower head but not the typical nozzle or handle to turn on to get water pressure and no indication whatsoever of any control of temperature. There is only a button to press on the wall, and when you press it the water turns on for about 15-20 seconds and then turns off and you have to hit it again. Showering like this gave me a new appreciation for how much you water I normally use and how much I actually need. As someone who tends to take longer showers, often just standing there contemplating life, being somewhere that conserves as much water as possible really made me think about and realize that I don’t need all the water I have been using and how important it is to conserve what I can. 

Another way that the eco-village in Cloughjordan saves water is by conserving water coming from sinks. When I went to wash my dishes after my first meal I found the sink full of water and immediately went to drain it before washing my dishes. I was quickly stopped by Pa, a resident of the eco-village and owner of the hostel we were staying at, who instructed me to use the water in the sink to wash instead of running the water the entire time while 20 people wash their dishes. While this was something to get used to it did conserve a lot of water and made me appreciate all of the other times i’m using water unnecessarily. The eco-village, while focusing the most on it, was not the only place in Ireland that is conserving water.

On the island of Inis Oirr water must be conserved especially carefully during the summer months, when there can be water shortages. In early June when we were there, water was being ferried to the island from the mainland up to three times a day. This meant that water was a large focus for the community at that time and the hostel we stayed at encouraged us to save as much water as possible. The owner of the hostel explained this on our first day and asked us to take short showers and “only flush when necessary”. In other places in Ireland that didn’t have a water shortage they still focus on conserving water and there were signs in both of the hotels that I stayed in asking people to be conscientious of the water that is used washing towels and bed linens. It was impressive to see how many people and establishments cared about conserving water and how many small changes to daily life can have a large impact.

A Sign About Conserving Water in a Hotel in Spiddal


An Imported Water Supply

How many times a day do you use water? See water? It’s probably more than you think. As my professor, Dr. O’Connell said, “You can’t survive without water.” This statement is true. It is crucial to all communities to have a supply of water for drinking, the sink, the shower, and the toilet. Most people do not think twice about their water usage and I was one of them. However, since my trip to Ireland, it is clear that water consciousness and water conservation is very important.

Water conservation in Ireland became evident in our first hostel in the Eco Village in Cloughjordan. Both the sinks and the showers had a push button system for the water. For the sink, I would push the button and water would come out and if my hands weren’t completely rinsed by the time the water ran out I would push it again. The showers also worked on the same push-button system. But, when the button was pressed, the water ran for about 30 seconds. To complete my shower, I had to press the button an uncountable amount of times. This made me pay attention to the amount of water I use when I shower and use the sink.

The other place I visited that stood out in my mind about water consciousness was the hostel, Bru Rhadarch na Mara, we stayed in Inisheer. Inisheer is the smallest of three islands off the coast of mainland Ireland. Since the island is so small, they do not have a freshwater supply. They can no longer use rain water because they have acid rain caused by emissions. Additionally, their aquifers have not been replenished due to dry and hot summers as a result of climate change. In order to get water, they import water from Galway which comes by ship 2-3 times a day.  Last year, there were even water restrictions enforced on the island. Since water is limited, there were signs all around our hostel about conserving water. These signs promote short showers and only flushing when necessary. Although these are only two examples of places trying to conserve water, due to climate change, many other places risk drying up their water supply in the future. Therefore, being conscious of water use is important for all communities. 

“Don’t Waste the Water!”

“Please only flush the toilets when you need to,” Linda, our host at the Brú Radharc na Mara Hostel tells us kindly. Her request is met with a few nervous glances. We file into the Hostel’s quaint foyer and I observe that the walls are covered with courtesy notices about water conservation. Outside the coast is relatively calm and salt water slowly laps at the weathered limestone. It is remote at Inis Oirr and fresh water is scarce—a surprising reality for some who wonder why, with ocean on all sides of us, that we must be so cautious. I approach one of the notices on the hostel billboard that reads, “Limit shower use.” Oh no. With all the hair I have, short showers are not my forte.

I have noticed that water conservation in Ireland is much more prevalent on both the mainland and Aran Islands than in the United States, forcing me to confront my privilege as someone who has long taken unlimited water usage as a given.

After greeting us, Linda explained that water is shipped to Inis Oirr on boats from Galway three times a day—a process that is very costly and not environmentally sustainable. As a result, proposals to develop water mains through the Aran Islands have been fervently debated throughout the past year. However, since water is currently shipped to Inis Oirr, islanders are left to the mercy of the weather to determine their water usage. “Last year,” Linda tells us, “we had a water curfew between 19:00 pm and 7:00 am due to a very dry summer. It was quite an adjustment for the students here before you.” More nervous glances pass around the room. I wonder what it would be like to live as a resident on the island and figure that a careful approach to water would become a second nature.

I tried to adopt this second nature for myself when I took a shower this morning. Upon turning the faucet, a jet of frigid water shot out. When the water did not increase in temperature after a minute, I got rather uneasy, then, deciding to suck-it-up and deal with it, I plunged into the icy cold. And I got used to it. As I showered, I was careful not to keep the water running while I was shampooing and conditioning my hair. The process was somewhat difficult, but it made a profound amount of sense in terms of conservation. Linda later told me that the long duration of cold water was due to newly installed faucets that limit hot water consumption.

While it may seem rather facile, showering here has made me appreciate and question my water usage back home. We take much for granted, and perhaps dangerously assume that hot showers are a universal aspect of the Westernized world. But this is not the case. Water is not an infinite resource and should not be treated as such. Hygiene is essential, yet respecting the earth is just as important.

A Valid Salad

American diets feature high sugar, fat, and salt because people are constantly surrounded by overly processed food. People in the States expect their chips to be salty, burgers to be cheesy, and ice cream to be sugary. Even when it comes to salad, Americans find a way to incorporate the cheese, sugar, fat, and salt they crave. In Ireland, I have noticed the sweet treats are less sugary, the burgers are not as loaded with cheese, and the chips are less salty.

What really impressed me was the side salad I ordered at Birr Castle. When I initially ordered my sandwich at the counter, the waitress told me that my sandwich would come with a “fresh side salad.” 

My first experience with side salads in Ireland.

In terms of first acquiring salads, I noticed a difference between Ireland and the States. In America, if a person orders a lunch sandwich, chances are that sandwich comes with a heap of fries. If an American does go out of their way to order a side salad, the salad portion would be much larger than what I experienced at Birr Castle. All of the lunch sandwiches at Birr Castle came with side salads. The portions of the salads were much smaller than portions of side salads in the States. Also, American salads tend to be drenched in a thick ranch dressing but at Birr Castle, the salad was coated with a light, simple oil dressing. In terms of the majority content of the salad, American salads usually include iceberg lettuce which is essentially all water and drastically lacks in nutrients when compared to other collard greens. The content of the salad at Birr Castle consisted of dark nutrient-rich greens, cucumbers, carrots, and onions. The toppings in American salads are often times coated with shredded cheese and garlic croutons. These toppings are obviously not nearly as healthy as the additions of vegetables in the Irish salad.

Even the prawn salad I had for lunch on Inis Oirr was modest and appropriate. It had dark, leafy greens, plump tomatoes, a fresh lemon and a healthy amount of dressing.

My first experience having a Prawn salad as a lunch meal in Ireland.

Both the salads I tried in Ireland were much healthier in terms of content and portion size when compared to American salads.

My overall observation in terms of Irish food compared to American food is: Ireland offers more healthy and fresh dietary options than America.

Bird is the Word

A habitat is a natural home or environment of an animal, plant, or other organisms. It can be a living creature’s both external and internal environments. A habitat can be manifested in many ways such as how a person decorates a home, the setting a bird chooses to nest in, as well as the micro-environments within an existing system. The birds on Inis Oirr have an interesting habitat. On our tour John Rattigan told us, “This island has less habitat variation and some of the birds migrate here for the weather during certain seasons. On this island, however, there is less biodiversity which means isolation.” A bird’s environment here does not include mountains, lakes, or the company of other animals because this small island does not have a variety of resources to offer.

Birds use the island’s resources and view their landscape as “home.”

In terms of the types of birds one could find on Inis Oirr, swallows migrate to this island from Africa to breed. They also fly close to the ground because they are visually attracted to rotting seaweed. Another type of bird is the Great Black Backed Gull which is a kind of seagull that is very powerful. One example of their power is how they can easily hold crabs in their mouths. For other types of birds who do not breed, they only come by Inis Oirr as a stopping point on their journey to another destination. There are two kinds of bird populations on this island. Both kinds can be very social. The small crow even makes a jack noise to attract attention from others. Other birds one can find here include the hooded crow, woodland bird, and other singing birds. A large singing bird can be best identified by the crest it displays on its head. However, these birds are scarce on the island. 

Sea campions, clints and grikes, and seaweed are just a few of the elements these birds experience.

When considering the habitat for birds on Inis Oirr, there are many elements to analyze. These elements can help explain why micro-environments work in the way that they do. On an island, the wildlife is exposed to weather conditions that can vary drastically when compared to where the birds migrated from.

The bird habitats on Inis Oirr offer a limited environment and resources so this fact does have an influence on the numbers and types of birds that can be found here.

Push Start Shower?

Before shipping out of Boston to Ireland, I read some of the blogs from last year’s trip. I noticed some students talked about push start showers. These showers required you to push a button every 15 seconds to get the water to start. If you forgot to push the button, the water would turn off. Not only did you have to push a button, but you were unable to adjust the temperature of the water. If you got lucky, you had warm water. Hot water was usually scarce when other residents were showering at a similar time. Reading this before I arrived in Ireland, I felt a sense of panic. When I first arrived in the Ecovillage, the first thing I checked was to see if those blog posts were true. To my dismay I saw a button and no way to adjust the temperature. I began to dread the day I had to take a shower. After learning more about the Ecovillage, and the steps they are taking to reduce their carbon footprint, I began to appreciate the way the bathroom was set up.  I then took my first ecovillage shower. To my surprise, I did not find it as challenging as I thought it would be.  The button restricted people to shorter showers. Which then reduced the amount of water wasted per shower.

In places like Inis Oirr short showers were a way of life.  Being on a small island, water can be scarce from time to time and has to be closely monitored. Their struggle to have a consistent water supply, led them to have water shipped to them from Galway twice a week.  When I entered the hostel on Inis Oirr, we were informed that they had a water shortage on the island on last year’s trip. This restricted people from using water from 7 pm to roughly 6 am. This was a typical thing that occurred on the island, due to their small water supply. Walking around the hostel, near sinks, showers, and toilets, there were flyers that read, “Keep it short. Water shortage on the island. Thank you!” These flyers served as a constant reminder to keep it short, because of their limited water supply. By either taking a quick shower, not leaving the faucet running, and only flushing when necessary, water supplies would last longer. Coming from a place where I don’t have to worry about water shortages, I suddenly became more aware of my shower time. I used what I learned from my showers in the Ecovillage, to help conserve water during my stay in Inis Oirr. 

Water usage is something that some people in America are not conscious about. They seem to think they have an unlimited water supply at their fingertips. Living in these different water usage environments has opened my eyes to become more aware that long and hot showers are not the most necessary thing in the world. These shower set ups got me in the routine of taking shorter showers. After the Ecovillage, I found myself turning off the water when I put in my shampoo and conditioner, then, turning it back on after I was done mixing it in my hair. Living in these water conscious environments exposed us to other ways of living and will allow us to bring these new techniques back to America.


Dear Catherine…

The following is a work of fiction based on recent events and experiences in Ireland.

Dear Catherine,

Every morning, in Inis Oirr I wake up to the sound of the ocean crashing against the walls just outside my yard. I typically wake up just before sunrise, put on my flip flops and run down to the ocean for my early morning walk. I love this time of morning because you get to watch the sun slowly peak over the horizon, and watch mother nature create a new masterpiece every morning. This time of morning is filled with the sounds of wildlife. You can hear the seagulls crying out above your head, various birds singing their morning songs and I can hear my cows eating their morning breakfast of grass from afar. Watching the sun rise over the landscape, is the perfect way to start my morning. However, the one thing I can live without are the little bugs, which people around here call, midges. Keeping up at a brisk pace you are able to avoid the swarms of bugs. Take a short break, and the bugs will begin to cloud above your head, and there is no escaping them now. I don’t think I will ever be able to get used to the midges.

Living in a touristy part of Ireland, I make my living off of giving people tours of the island. I obtained two horses that I use throughout the week and attach them to my carriage for a horse and carriage tour. Around 8 every morning I set up my base in front of the ferry, where I am the first thing that the tourists see. People who are feeling adventurous or want to go on a romantic ride, board my carriage and we begin the tour.  I give them the tour of the beached ship, the cemetery, the sunken church, and the old castle we have on the island.

My two horses have grown to be my best friends because we spend so much time together. One day I went to my plot of land to get my horses for the day of tours. I discovered that my horses were missing! The gate was open and they were gone. I immediately sprung into action and ran down to the wharf to see if anyone had seen my horses. A good friend said he saw two young boys riding my horses bareback around the island. Thankfully, my friend offered to drive me in her horse and carriage to try and find the thieves. After searching what seemed to be hours, we saw my horses and the thieves walking up the side of the hill to the castle. I chased after them and when they were confronted, they claimed that they were going to bring them back before I started work, and just wanted to go on an adventure. Now my horses are back in my custody and I check on them frequently.

All in all, island life has been a surreal experience. The rocks here look like cookie dough pieces, and have me craving chocolate chip cookies more frequently. See if mom can send me some of her homemade cookies for me.


Your Irish Twin


Twelve Tough Hours

Imagine getting ready to take a hot steamy shower after a long day of touring Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay. As I stepped into the shower I turned the nozzle up, turned the temperature gauge to the left and I expected the water to start flowing out, but the water did not turn on. I was confused, why didn’t it work? I walked into the other bedrooms and asked if their water was working. I watched as Emily slowly turned on the faucet and shower nozzle, but water did not pour out. I walked down the windy narrow steps of the hostel to the receptionist and no one was there. After a conversation with a Hostel employee the next morning, he informed me that earlier in May the Aran Islands inflicted night time restrictions on the public supply of water, due to a very dry spring season and historically low water levels. Locals on the island asked homes, businesses and visitors on the island to conserve water in every possible way, such as using only a little water to wash dishes and clothes, only flushing the toilet when needed and taking shorter showers. Originally the water supply was supposed to shut off at 11pm however the island decided to cut off the water supply at 8:30 pm due to the fact that the current restrictions were not sufficient enough. 8:30 pm to 8:30 am, a tough twelve hours that the water supply was shut off. I overheard two older men talking outside a local grocery store and I found out that it had not rained significantly in over two months, therefore the water tanks started to dry up. After eating dinner in Inis Oirr I found out that throughout the afternoon restaurant employees collect water from the faucet and put it aside for the evening after the water is shut off. The water that is collected is used to finish cooking customer’s orders and used to clean dishes. While I understand that residents and visitors should restrict their water usage during this dry season, I have never heard of any town actually shutting off their supply of water after a certain time. It must be very difficult for the employees to estimate how much water they will actually need that night. On the small island of Inis Oirr there is a large freshwater lake, Loch Mor however they can not use this water as drinking water.

Loch Mór

How could an island that is surrounded by water be forced to endure nighttime water restrictions.


Tired after a day of travel, I picked up my towel, still wet from the night before, and headed for the shower. Pushing every button, I could find, I tried my hardest to figure out how to get the water on. It couldn’t be that hard to turn on a shower, I thought. I was shocked to find out, the water had been shut off two hours earlier. Water is something we often take for granted. Because water is so easily accessible, after a stressful day we come home and take a long hot shower. Or we leave the water running while we brush our teeth and wash our face. In Ireland, even being an island, there is not much fresh water to spare. In the beginning of our journey in Ireland we stayed at the eco village. The eco village opened our eyes to see how spoiled we are, and how we frequently misuse the readily available fresh water. In the shower at the eco village, you had to press a button to get about eighteen seconds of water. Having to continuously press the button to get more water, made me realized how we are so used to taking long showers. I tried personally, to press the button the least amount of times, resulting in a quicker shower. I learned to shampoo my hair then turn the water on to rinse. Later, on the island of Inishmore we discovered the hard way that the water shortage causes the island to turn the water off between 11pm and 8:30am. I spoke with a man in the lobby of the hostel and he said, “I’ve been living here for seventeen years and it has never been this bad. It also hasn’t rained in two months”.  Even when rain falls on the islands, it often arrives in brief bursts and quickly continues onto the mainland. The brief bursts of rainfall have not been enough to get the island out of its water deficit situation. After Inishmore, we then went to Inis Oirr where they have the same water shortage as well. The hours on the Inis Oirr island were 8:30pm to 8:30am. After learning about the hours of water restrictions, we learned how to adjust. So many of us students have a showering schedule that we are used to. People prefer showering at different times, but personally I like to shower at night. When we were on Inishmore and the water shut off without a warning, I had to learn to adjust. I woke up earlier to take a shower the next day. This situation opened my eyes to show that we are so fortunate to shower whenever we please and can flush the toilet in the middle of the night. Although many places in the U.S. are experiencing droughts also, they do not take as extensive measures as the islands here off Ireland.