Delhi Private School, Sharjah, organises workshops for students to spread the message of water conservation Image Credit: Supplied

Water demand is projected to increase by 55 per cent worldwide between 2000 and 2050, according to last year’s Water Outlook report from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

The growing scarcity — and consequent price increases — are alarming for organisations everywhere. With the UAE dedicated to adopting water sustainability, many companies are working to lower water consumption and maintain freshwater resources within the country.

Dh500,000 scare

“A huge electricity/water bill of Dh549,000 for a month in 2011 was an eye opener for us,” says Iftikhar Hamdani, General Manager, Ramada Hotel and Suites Ajman. “With practical changes, the average bill is reduced about 21 per cent every month. We have saved 7,300,000 gallons of water in a year and Dh219,000 annually,” he adds.

The hotel achieved this by installing low-flow faucets, shower heads, toilets and appliances in guest and staff rooms and by using a drip irrigation system for its gardens. About 30 per cent of guests help out by not asking for linen and towels to be changed daily.

“The initial challenge was to engage all the teams as we have 16 different nationalities working here. We began by educating staff; their engagement not only reduced water consumption, but they also became ambassadors of water conservation when interacting with guests,” he adds.

Staff are key to the success of any widescale initiative, agrees Ramakrishna Bhadhya, Deputy Manager, Consulting Farnek Services and Avireal Middle East. “As with any energy or water-saving measure, the major challenge is staff involvement,” he says, adding that getting management on board is paramount. “People will participate in only if the measures are driven by management. Having an in-house energy management team helped us and we established a green team headed by the CEO,” he adds.

Education for all

Getting the message down to everyone using water is the next step. The Delhi Private School, Sharjah, contacted a private company to help reduce water consumption as its monthly bills were alarming. “With the installation of smart water savers, the average monthly depletion of water has come down to 466,750 gallons used by more than 6,000 members, which is an average saving of 
34 per cent with a mediocre periodic cost of Dh20,695,” says the schools’ Principal, Vandana Marwaha.

“By organising workshops for teachers, students and parents, we have tried to spread the message of water conservation beyond school,” she adds.

Others team with bigger agencies to create a sense of working towards a cause. Darren Platts, Safety, Health and Environmental Manager at the ISO-14001-certified Costain Abu Dhabi Company WLL, says his company signed up to work with the Emirates Wildlife Society/World Wildlife Fund, on its Corporate Heroes of the UAE programme.

“It required us to develop a measurable strategy to reduce our water/electricity consumption by 10 per cent each over a year. However, our main challenge was financial constraint. We countered this by using free methods,” he says. “Our water bill saw a reduction from Dh24,570 in 2011 to Dh17,561 in 2012. We saved 698,060 imperial gallons in one year,” he adds.

Design and details

Re-education projects don’t always succeed so coding water savings into the design of a project is one way of keeping bills low. Another is the use of eco-friendly devices.

GE’s green and contemporary office in Sowwah Square in Abu Dhabi uses sustainable materials in its design and uses its ecomagination-certified products to save water and power. “We have installed our zip tap technology, which filters municipal water and saves on the purchase of bottled drinking water. The building also uses water conservation fixtures, which further conserve water usage in the washrooms,” says Nabil Habayeb, President and CEO, GE, Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

NBAD, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, reduced water consumption at select branches by installing water-saving devices on the taps. Buoyed by an initial success, the bank will instal the gadgets at all its offices and branches in the UAE, says Belinda Scott, Senior Manager Corporate Sustainability, NBAD. “We also work with our facilities department to ensure water leaks and dripping taps are managed quickly to reduce wastage,” she adds.

Clever maintenance certainly helps. Cedars Jebel Ali International Hospital began its initiative in 2012 by replacing manual taps with automated ones, changing broken hoses and watering plants either early or late in the day, says Deputy Managing Director Anne-Susann Becker. Regular maintenance checks and immediate repair reduced the facility’s Dewa bill by 30 per cent.

— Special to GN Focus