UAE is the world’s third largest per capita water consumer after the US and Canada. Image Credit: Francois Nel/Gulf News

Dubai Living in Dubai can foster the illusion that water is plentiful with green parks and palm trees abounding and potable water always at the ready for more than two million residents in the emirate.

But the reality is that demand is placing tremendous pressure upon authorities to draw millions of litres of freshwater daily from groundwater and desalination sources, says Hamdan Al Shair, director of the Environment Department at Dubai Municipality.

The keynote speaker at a water security conference yesterday, Al Shair told Gulf News that the municipality is doing everything in its power to encourage people to conserve water to help reduce the impact on the desert environment.

A litre of water saved is a litre of water earned, he said, and can drastically slash the need to keep going to the well.

"People tend to forget that we are living in a desert environment and that water is scarce," Al Shair said in an interview. "The real challenge we are facing is not to waste water."

Impact of desalination

The impact of desalination plants on sensitive Gulf shorelines in Dubai is ever present as desalination facilities pump heated brine water back into the environment after cooling down plant facilities, he said.

"From desalination, the brine goes back into the sea. There is an impact," Al Shair said. "We need to use water rationally to avoid damaging the environment."

Few people weigh the effects of everyday activities that need water — from taking baths and showers, to washing clothes and dishes and even cooking.

Half the water we use will do

"The United Nations focus this year is on reducing the amount of water we use when we are cooking," he said. "A huge amount of water is used. We always use more water than we need when half will do."

Leo Radford, business development manager at Smashing Cleaning Services based in Dubai, said his company is doing its part to help consumers stem rising water consumption.

The company presented its new ablution station yesterday at the water conference claiming that the unit can save one-third of the water normally used in ceremonial washing before prayers or for personal hygiene.

The unit allows the user to sit comfortably near ground level with an easily accessible tap positioned in front — a catch basin below captures water avoiding waste.

A thirsty lot

Dubai As one of the largest users per capita of water in the world, Dubai consumers are a thirsty lot, according to the latest statistics by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa).

In 2011, Dewa figures show that the emirate had an installed capacity of 400 million imperial gallons per day (MIGD) of desalinated water. A further 32 MIGD were taken from groundwater wells over the course of the year.

Water was provided to 532,885 consumers in 2011 compared with 507,193 consumers in 2010. Residential customers made up 80 per cent of the consumer roster while commercial water demands followed with 19.2 per cent. Industrial water demand was pegged at .23 per cent.

Dewa officials note the "UAE is the world's third largest per capita water consumer after the US and Canada. In the UAE, the cost of buying one litre of petrol and one litre of bottled drinking water is almost the same."

Advice from Dubai Municipality:

  • Shower instead of filling the bathtub. Only turn on the shower when water is needed. Combined, the efforts can save more 90 litres of water each washing.
  • Fill your washing machine with laundry given that each cycle consumers 75 litres of water.
  • Running a dishwasher once a day instead of after each meal is also a great water saver considering that up to 75 litres of water is needed for each cleaning cycle.
  • When washing your car, use a sponge and a bucket of water instead of a water hose, the latter of which can use more than 225 litres per wash.
  • Keep your home taps tightly closed. The smallest dripping tap can lose 50 to 75 litres of water per day.