Orbital Systems' recycling shower claims to conserve 90% of its water


November 25, 2013

Orbital Systems is developing a new household shower that recycles any water that goes down the drain by purifying it and sending it back to the shower head

Orbital Systems is developing a new household shower that recycles any water that goes down the drain by purifying it and sending it back to the shower head

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A Swedish technology company called Orbital Systems is tackling the issue of water conservation with a new household shower that purifies any water that goes down the drain and sends it back to the shower head. By the company's estimations, its closed-loop system could retain over 90 percent of the water and 80 percent of the energy consumed by an ordinary shower.

The OrbSys Shower, as the creators have been calling it, is fairly simple in concept, but requires some cutting-edge technology to function properly. To recycle the water coming out of it, a sophisticated filtering system and pump is fitted directly beneath the shower drain in the floor. As the soapy, used water flows into the drain, it's immediately purified and pumped right back into the shower to be re-used again and again. It's a similar system to the kind astronauts use on space shuttles, which may explain why Orbital Systems has collaborated with the Johnson Space Center at NASA on the project.

Instead of a set of knobs like in most showers, the current model of the OrbSys Shower has a touchscreen embedded in the wall, which allows users to check its status and adjust the temperature and water flow more precisely. According to a CNN report, the floor of the shower is also designed like an access panel, so homeowners can easily lift it up to check the filter and replace it if needed. Once a new one is in place, used filters can be sent back to Orbital Systems for recycling.

Also in that report, company founder Mehrdad Mahdjoubi explained that running an average shower for 10 minutes consumes approximately 150 L (40 gallons) of water, whereas this recycling shower consumes only 5 L (1.3 gallons). Because the water going through the filtration process is already heated when it leaves the shower head the first time, it also takes much less energy to warm it back up to the desired temperature and re-use it. And unlike low-flow shower heads, which reduce the volume of water coming out, the OrbSys Shower maintains a consistent water pressure and a high flow rate up to 24 L/min (6.3 gallons/min) while still wasting less water.

As a bonus, this constant filtering results in cleaner water than what comes out of a typical tap. Through testing at the Swedish Institute of Diseases and Alcontrol Laboratories, the team found the shower system removed over 99 percent of endotoxins, DNA, and micron-sized particles that passed through it. Orbital Systems claims the water that passes through its shower is actually of a higher quality than drinking water, which is part of the reason the company is also exploring how the shower could be used in areas with clean water shortages.

If helping the environment and the prospect of bathing in purified water doesn't sway some consumers though, the shower's financial benefits might catch their attention. It depends on several factors, such as a person's location and typical shower usage, but the company estimates that a typical family of four in the United States could save over US$1,500 each year by switching to its new showers.

At this time, Orbital Systems has only installed its showers in the Ribersborg open-air bath house located in the company's home town of Malmö, Sweden, which has served as a prime location to test its capabilities. The facility caters to over 170,000 visitors annually, which ensures the showers are being used almost constantly during the day to rinse off people who are likely covered in algae, plankton, seaweed, and other debris from the nearby ocean. According to Orbital Systems, just replacing two of the showers in the bath house with its recycling ones has saved over 100,000 L (26,000 gallons) of water during this past summer alone.

In the future, the company hopes to find more locations to test its shower technology and possibly adapt the system to other household water sources, such as kitchen sinks and drinking fountains.

Source: Orbital Systems via CNN

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher

Nice for a public system like this. Assuming there is a professional caretaker, and big re-usable backwash filter systems.

On small scale in a single family home, "sophisticated filtering system" and all that jazz are prone to a lot of problems, starting with the filters becoming an issue if not properly maintained, energy use for both manufacture and operation of a complex system like this, and disposal problems if there are parts of the filtering system that need to be disposed of frequently.

How about just pumping the shower water as-is back up for a few times? I can have a five-liter-shower with just a little pump and a valve.

After all, when I sit in a full bath tub, I sit all the same in my own mud. If I can do that, I might as well cycle my soapy shower water two or three times before drawing some fresh water for a rinse. My washer does that. Why not me? No hightech needed, no filters to replace, no bacterial issues from missed filter replacements, and no extra waste coming from my already pretty wasteful industrialized household.


Would like to see this in a camper or boat system as well. Long hot showers on the go FTW.

Hugh Cowart

The power and consumables needed to recycle the water must eat into the savings of the dirt. Shipping the dirt back to Orbital Systems for final disposal is a bonus!


This is going to make all those people that are currently quite comfortable with peeing in the shower think twice!


Failing that you could shower for four or five minutes instead of ten. I'd like to see a full life cycle analysis of this product, including the energy for manufacture and maintenance.


Be nice to see a cost estimate. Often these projects are often affordable only by the rich. But imagine what they would save schools,gyms,and other high users.


Not really feasible for private use, but I can see how efficient it would be in public bath houses, swimming pools, etc.. Hope they are able and do test the purification very very thoroughly.


Why not have a timer fitted to the shower, with a visual display of how much time left? For commercial systems you could pay by the minute.

Personally, I get myself wet and warm; turn off the water, apply shower gel, lather up, then turn on and rinse off.


There were some guys who went on "New Inventors" Tv Show here in Australia with this exact product about five years ago. I wonder what happened with it? Regardless, it's a damn awesome idea and should be put into every new home!

Luke Hopkins

What with the possibility of water shortages occurring in every part of the world, I applaud this idea of water conservation. Showering, toilet flushing and washing machines constitute the bulk of our (wasteful?) water usage. People use more water every year, but luckily technologies are already being implemented that actually reduce water usage on a country and yearly basis.

One day this sort of idea will get incorporated in our daily lives, and we will be a bit smarter handling our limited resources.

And people will then indeed think twice before peeing in the shower. :)

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret

Fantastic idea, especially for those of us who live in cold areas! I'd gladly buy & fit one of these today if I could - sick of the excessive utility charges. Saving 39 gallons per shower is impressive! Even here in the UK we have water shortages, despite our crap weather.


If the replaceable filter could be changed to a system that does not be to be replaced, like some sort of centrifugal separator that would get out most of the impurities rather than creating drinking water quality, I think that would be more than adequate for most people. As BeWalt says, in a bath we are soaking in it, and any filtering at all would be a big improvement. Of course you would want to discard the water after each session to avoid it fermenting, but that would still be a big improvement over our current system.

Michael Crumpton

There is a Company in Montreal, that has a system that works on the similar principal but had it shown already back in 2005...

Have a look:

Max Mertens
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