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A team of maintenance workers from the Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center in St. Francois County have developed a new water system for Missouri prisons that could save the taxpayers $62 million.

Low-pressure showers are a staple of the new water system, something that was inspired by droughts in California, according to Robert Miller, a maintenance supervisor with the ERDCC.

“Their water is really precious to them, and they have low-flow showers,” Miller said. “So we decided to put valves in the prisons for low-flow showers.”

The new showers will be using 1 gallon of water per minute instead of the current 2.5 gallons per minute. Shower times also can be limited, and the new showers will not be able to be manipulated by offenders into staying on all day, something that is sometimes using 36 hundred gallons of water in a day according to Miller.

“We’re controlling the water by a computer, so we can change anything in it,” Miller said. “We have total freedom. We can say how long the water is going to be on, how long the water is going to be off. If we need to turn off the water for an emergency or a a search, we can turn the water off.”

The new system has seen success in one housing unit at the ERDCC, and it may be spreading throughout the rest of the state soon according to the prison’s deputy warden, Julie Bell.

“Yesterday we spoke to the director at a statewide meeting, and she was very interested,” Bell said. “We are getting together with her and Drew Erdmann of the governor’s office to answer some questions about implementing this in a state-wide fashion.”

The system was shown off at the Show Me Challenge, a “Shark Tank”-style competition that allows members of Missouri’s executive departments to identify solutions that improve the running of agencies.

“The competition was a good learning experience for us, and it gave us a voice,” Miller. “We have leaders at DOC that are excited to let us try new ideas out.”

Jessika Eidson can be reached


Follow her on Twitter at @NPNowEidson.