Meet the Designer: Alisha and Sean McFetridge

This climate-conscious couple created a shower that conserves water without losing water pressure.
Sean Alisha Outdoor

Alisha and Sean McFetridge are the minds behind RainStick, a shower that conserves water.

Designed by climate-conscious couple Alisha and Sean McFetridge, the innovative new RainStick is a plumbing fixture that creates a spa-like shower that cleans and recycles shower water, saving gallons while boosting the rate of flow. Residents of the Okanagan desert region in western Canada, they grew up conscious of water conservation, a concern heightened in their early careers. While working in Kenya for an education charity, Alisha saw students missing school in order to walk hours to fetch water, and Sean’s energy consulting led him to deplore the massive amount of water he saw wasted in restaurant kitchens.

Married after meeting at an ecology film festival, their shared concern advanced into a need to do something about water conservation. Realizing bathroom use consumes 50 percent of home water, they zeroed in on the shower, where an average 10-minute session uses up to 26 gallons. Recalling summer jobs where he helped clean and recycle the loop at a city water park, Sean started sketching concept drawings and consulting designers for insight. After several prototypes, and setting up a makeshift “wet laboratory” crate where friends were invited to test showers, the RainStick was launched.

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RainStick saves water while also doubling the water flow.

How does RainStick work?

Instead of going straight down the drain, water sprayed through the nozzle is collected by a pump, cycled through a filter to remove soaps and impurities, disinfected by a UV light, and re-sprayed through the nozzle, recirculating up to 5 times. Simultaneously, the pump increases the rate of flow so the water is ejected with more satisfying pressure.

What was your approach to design?

A shower is a simple thing: valves of hot and cold water and a drain. We had to keep it extremely simple—durable, easy to clean and maintain.

What was the biggest engineering challenge?

The pump: We had to find a pump that was small enough, quiet and powerful. It took 18 months to finalize; it was a big component.

Why are there top and bottom spout outlets?

The lower spout can be engaged for cleaning, and it is a place to attach the optional handheld nozzle.

Why can’t I buy one for my current shower?

We say it is for new construction and renovation. There is an electrical component, and the main reason is the catchment basin that needs to be installed in the shower floor. Any plumber is familiar with that procedure.

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The couple designed the product to be simple and durable.

The cycling feature can be disengaged so it can also be used any time as a traditional shower. What is the effect?

It reverts to regular 1.5 gallon-per-minute low flow, and the benefit of the pump’s increased three-gallon flow pressure is lost.

What are customers’ reactions?

There are two different camps: Some people are passionate about the water savings, others like the experience of doubling the water flow.

Why did you include a Wi-Fi component?

Using it is optional; it works fine without it. But those who use it can figure out how much energy and water they’re saving and can set their preferences, so you press a button and it goes right to your preferred temperature and flow.

You’re married business partners. What’s the division of labor?

Sean is CTO, the engineer developing the product. Alisha has a master’s degree in climate change and worked organizing global events. She is CEO and manages the business end, sales and marketing.

What songs do you sing in the shower?

Oh, that’s the place to turn on the Calm app.

Besides hiking with Milo, your Bernese Mountain Dog, what are your hobbies?

We’re lucky, Kelowna has mountains and a lake. In the winter, we ski on the same snow that melts into the lake where we swim and boat in the summer.

What is your ultimate goal?

Currently, people use about 90 gallons of water per day. Our mission is how to get people to live and thrive with just 13 gallons.

The print version of this article appears with the headline:  Meet the Designer: Alisha and Sean McFetridge.