A SIMPLE idea with world changing results is a rare thing. The Cullector is one of them: an elegant water saving solution that alters the ingrained but wasteful ritual of showering just a little, for a huge impact over time.
Peter Cullin, the inventor of the Cullector, claims that the showerhead and reservoir combination can save 35,000 litres of water per person, per year, over a traditional showerhead.
"People say 35,000 litres, what is that? To give you a bit of perspective, that amount is enough to provide a person with fresh drinking water to last a hundred years," Cullin says.
The showerhead is fairly simple at first glance. It has its own tap and a water reservoir attached underneath. Inside the tap is precision-engineered piping that regulates the pressure and flow of the water, thanks to the Venturi effect.
When the shower is turned on, the reservoir fills with the cold water that would usually wash down the drain, wasted. A small flow escapes through the shower rose so the user can get a feel for the temperature.
When it's warm enough, they flick the tap on and the water in the reservoir is mixed and slowly emptied through the flow, increasing the pressure slightly. When the reservoir is empty, the flow pulses a little as a reminder to finish up.
The Cullector's Kickstarter launch video.
The idea for the Cullector was born seven years ago during the Millennium Drought in Australia, the worst in living memory.
"I became acutely aware of just how fragile and utterly dependent we all are on water and the natural environment, and I felt compelled to do something about it."
When asked about his engineering background, Cullin laughs. He doesn't have one - when he first took up the idea of the Cullector, he was working as a professional saxophonist for the Cairns resort circuit.
He has studied visual arts, which he says helps immensely with the creative side of problem solving and inventing. Do a bit of digging, and you see where his inventive streak might originate.
I became acutely aware of just how utterly dependent we all are on water and the natural environment and I felt compelled to do something about it.
"I was almost destined to be an inventor. My late father was the personification of the wild haired inventor. He had an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a delight in discovery and creation."
Cullin describes his dad's radio and television repair workshop as looking more like a mad scientist's laboratory. That workshop, full of boxes of components and disassembled gear, was Cullin's playground growing up.
"It's been a real challenge, without having that background in engineering or plumbing, I've had to learn, to start everything from scratch. Engineering, 3D CAD work, even just writing grants," Cullin explains.
What was meant to be a 12-month project turned in to seven years of work. Countless prototypes later and Cullin has a finished product. He's turning to Kickstarter to help launch his invention.
"Crowdfunding is an absolute wonder. It gives people that otherwise wouldn't have access to funding an opportunity put their idea out there, to see if it's going to fly before they invest a whole heap of money on it."
Cullin has already invested around a quarter of a million dollars of his own money in to the project, as well as years of his life. The feedback and response to his campaign has been gratifying, a vindication of his vision.
"Getting support and feedback from the public is crucial. It's a long and lonely road as an inventor. You put so much time and effort getting these things off the ground and you never know if they're really going to fly."
The project was buoyed by a number of grants and a winning appearance on the New Inventors ABC show. Cullin was approached by investors and interested parties following the show, but he felt the prototype wasn't ready at that point - he wanted to perfect the device before opening the floodgates.
"We're getting to the stage now where I'm really starting to feel that it's going to develop a bit of momentum," Cullin says.
Testing the Cullector.
Water saving solutions are direly needed too. That need is obvious in South Australia, the driest state of the driest inhabited continent in the world, but there are far-flung applications as well.
"Places in America are having an absolutely horrible time with their droughts. The Colorado River isn't reaching the sea. They've been drawing so much water from their aquifers that they're actually destroying them. I'd love to get the product over there because it could do an awful lot of good.
"There's a lot of people who know they're doing damage to the environment, but they simply lack the tools to do anything about it."
Now, Cullin is hopeful that his Kickstarter campaign will be successful and his product will develop the groundswell needed to draw in a company with the know-how to commercialise it.
"I'm not a big company. I'm just an inventor working from home. I really need to try to get somebody on board who can help me get it out there. That's the next step - and I'm simultaneously constantly trying to improve the product," Cullin says.
"It's a wonderful thing just to bring a new product in to the world. If you can do that with a product that is not only great for the environment but it saves people money, it's a beautiful thing really, a win-win for everybody."