By Dr. Rekha Shetty, Water Warrior
We can do anything with water except live without it. Imagine, the cities of the UAE, meet all their drinking water needs from desalinated water! Waste water is treated and reused for greenery. There are several sea water desalination plants in the UAE. In the model green city, Masdar, four smaller pilot desalination plants will use solar power! Using an old technology, ocean desalination, a plant in UAE, at Jebel Ali can produce 564 million gallons of water a day from the sea!
Everyone pays for water by public meter, so they are more careful with its use. Water saving toilets and showerheads are mandatory. Over use of water is indicated on the bills in red. It is time we thought about the use of water more carefully, when it is still available. Treating water becomes more and more expensive as we deplete our supplies.
In spite of their water issues, UAE is generously involved in efforts to provide foreign water aid, which include basic water supplies projects, digging wells, developing rivers basins, general hygiene, large scale water supply systems, large scale general hygiene systems and conservation of water resources in more than 61 countries, at a cost exceeding AED 1 billion. Top recipient countries of water projects includes: Afghanistan, Pakistan the only two Polio affected countries where impure water is key source of infection, Lebanon, Somalia and Sudan. In addition, UAE supports water projects in West African countries, such as Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Burundi.
Water projects have contributed in improving the enrolment rates of the school students, and for girls and women joining rates to adult literacy classes. In rural areas around the world, children, especially girls and women, are engaging in a daily journey searching for water, and spending long hours that force them to miss opportunities of education and improving their livelihoods. Funded water projects helped in improving the personal hygiene, which reduced infections of hygiene related diseases. In addition, the availability of water resources saved some time for women to take care of their children and families, which led to improved maternal and child health. It also provides more time for the family to engage in income- generating activities. Also water availability helped in reducing the struggle over water. This helped in reducing conflicts, providing security and peace. For example, Merowe Dam in Sudan, which UAE has helped fund in providing energy of 1250 MW and irrigating 300,000 hectares of cultivated land.
Unless we are careful, we will soon join the 1.2 billion people who live in places where it is tough to get water. It is estimated that climate change is moving more parts of the world into desertification. The world population is expected to cross 9 billion by 2050! Unless we start working on saving water, even on an individual level, most of them will be thirsty. Start rain harvesting today! Start conserving water!