Friday, July 31, 2009

Save water now or pay heavy price later

The Gulf Today, 31 July 2009
Both public and the authorities should undertake water conservation practices on a war footing ­ in domestic and production activity ­ to achieve sufficient consumption of the resource and to overcome the water scarcity challenges the UAE is facing, an environmentalist has advised. Addressing a community lecture by Emirates Environmental Group (EEG), sustainable development and water resources expert Sarfraz H Dairkee warned: "The status of our water resources are alarmingly in jeopardy. We adopt dangerously managed methods to meet our ever-increasing water demands and the challenges to meet these are therefore ever-increasing for a growing population and an expanding economy."
Safraz Dairkee, a founding board member of the Emirates Green Building Council and its Technical Committee head, delivered a lecture on 'Water footprint: Increasing demand and diminishing resources.'
"Where do we get our water resources? Are we producing and consuming water in a sustainable way?" he asked friends of the environment who participated in the community awareness programme.
According to Dairkee, consumption of water should be done with growing efficiency to serve more people now and in the future. Given the current realities, a new call is therefore being made to conserve water resources by adopting local solutions.
Meanwhile, Dairkee affirmed that the UAE could still achieve sustainability in water production and consumption. To do so, the UAE should manage its water supply and demand more efficiently as its water footprint is among the world's highest.
Water recycling
"Several innovative ways could be adopted to address the water challenges as an individual and as a society. Simple conservation measures for families and homes and hi-technology co-generation plants for recycling are some of the solutions. Water recycling should also be practiced at homes, buildings and factories," he outlined.
"Government authorities, individuals and business communities must realise the situation that the world's most precious resources are dwindling," Dairkee advised.
He also discussed the present paradigm of increasing demand for water in the country and the challenge of dwindling resources.
"The UAE has the highest per capita water consumption rate in the world. People of the UAE consume more water than people of all other countries of the world, and it's 10 times higher than they were consuming before the country's economic boom," he revealed.
"The daily water consumption of a single person in the UAE was about 40 litres before the economic and lifestyle revolutions witnessed in the country. But, the per capita consumption has jumped up to 460 litres after the developments, making it the highest in the region and three times higher than a European's average water consumption rate, which is 160 litres per day," Dairkee detailed.
"Population and fast economic growth have pushed up demands for water significantly over the last few years. The challenge now is to meet these demands adequately given the fact that the country sits in an arid zone and water resources are diminishing," he noted.
"Less than one per cent of the global water resources are actually fresh and renewable. The UAE is in an arid region, which is challenged to meet its growing water demand each and every single day," he added.
Water neutrality'
Dairkee explained the concept of 'water neutrality, is an idea that is being explored by business, NGOs and policy makers as a way forward.
He said: "However, the concept of water neutrality is not a simple one as it still needs to be firmed up. The criteria for water neutrality in fact remain a subject of debate. Our concept relates water neutrality loosely to the ecological footprint concept, while another concept introduces the idea of 'water offsets'."
He also defined the concept of 'water footprint', as is related to the 'carbon footprint' in the production and delivery of water.
"The magnitude of production of water in the country to meet local demands could not pass without having a corresponding impact on the environment as the process depends on fossil-based energy and huge amounts of brine are dumped in the sea," he mentioned.
Clean water, a right
According to Habiba Al Marashi, chairperson of the EEG, it's our right to get clean and adequate water every time we open the tap in our homes but we do not see the process of producing it. "We do not hear the humming of huge desalination plants. Certainly we do not feel the pinch of the extra cost of getting water ready and available when we get our bills," she said.

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