Opinion

EPA Wants To Monitor Your Hotel Showers

Justin Haskins Editor, The Heartland Institute

In an effort to expand its ever-increasing crusade against privacy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking to develop a wireless shower monitoring system that would measure the length of guests’ showers and water use in hotels across the country.

Information about EPA’s newest privacy invasion comes from a grant approval made to the University of Tulsa in the amount of $15,000 to help develop the technology needed to create the program.

According to the grant, “Hotels consume a significant amount of water in the U.S. and around the world. Most hotels do not monitor individual guest water usage and as a result, millions of gallons of potable water are wasted every year by hotel guests. The proposed work aims to develop a novel low cost wireless device for monitoring water used from hotel guest room showers.”

While the thought of the federal government measuring showers is odd, the most disturbing aspect of this proposed program is that EPA plans to create a centralized database that would collect information about shower times and water use for guests.

“This device will be designed to fit most new and existing hotel shower fixtures and will wirelessly transmit hotel guest water usage data to a central hotel accounting system,” the grant explains.

It’s not clear from the grant’s language whether the database will only be accessed by hotel managers or if EPA will also have access to the information.

The grant does, however, make it apparent that one of the goals of the program is to encourage hotel guests to closely watch their own water use.

“This technology will provide hotel guests with the ability to monitor their daily water online or using a smartphone app, and will assist hotel guest in modifying their behavior to help conserve water,” the grant reads.

While water conservation is certainly not an insidious goal, it’s easy to imagine how this technology could eventually develop into a government program that increases taxes on hotels that use too much water, and would it surprise anyone if EPA pushes for this technology to start appearing in private homes and businesses?

If this isn’t the end goal of EPA, one has to wonder why the government agency is even interested in developing this technology. The idea that hotels need shower monitoring devices to help pay water bills is absurd. Current hotel lodging costs and fees already cover all the costs associated with operating the hotel, including the water bill. If hotels were really interested in charging some of their guests more for increased water use, they would have paid to develop the technology themselves.

If EPA’s goal is simply to reduce water, why not just monitor total water use for the entire hotel and let the hotel work out the remaining concerns?

The reality is EPA wants to develop technology to help micromanage and micro-regulate every aspect of Americans’ lives, and if people don’t stand up for their privacy rights, EPA will succeed in its endeavor.

Justin Haskins (Jhaskins@heartland.org) is the editor of The Heartland Institute, a leading free-market think tank headquartered in Chicago and the editor-in-chief of the New Revere Daily-Press. Opinions are his own.