Saturday, September 16, 2006

Water, water everywhere...

Time for a grumble. I've been mainly positive up to now, making out that life in Dubai is perfect. Well, maybe not, but it's time to get something off my chest.

I read a statistic the other day. I can't remember where, probably in the local free tabloid (think the UK's Metro) called 7 Days or possibly Time Out Dubai. It stated that the average daily consumption of water in the UAE is 500 litres per person. That really is quite startling when you think about it. It's one of the highest rates, if not THE highest in the world. I started to think about my own contribution to this incredible figure: I drink maybe 2 litres a day, have a shower, go to the bog a few times, wash my dishes, etc., but 500 litres? Come on! Then I thought about it some more, and it started to make sense why this place uses so much. Driving around Dubai on a daily basis, you see sprinklers everywhere. There is grass, established and newly-planted, all over the place, and in the heat of the desert summer, it needs watering at least twice a day. Yes, sand is boring. Grass and greenery looks nice. So I kind of grudgingly accept it as being par for the course. Har-de-har. It's part of the whole experience here. You turn a blind eye to these excesses, and the liberal /environmental guilt is pushed to one side when you see the things that you see, and hear about some of the stuff that goes on. It's the price you pay for coming to a place like this. But then some things just push you too far.

On my daily drives around the vast suburban sprawl that is Springs, I often come across large puddles and streams of water flowing across the streets, and wonder where it's coming from. I now have my answer. Today I spotted a hired hand (gardener/maid/not sure?) hosing down the block-paved carport area to the front of a villa. I drove by slowly and watched as this person blithely ejected litres and gallons of water onto the paving, all with the supposed aim of clearing away the sand and dust that gathers in such areas (To be fair, it gathers everywhere). The street was a veritable river, and a big blob of wet sand was gathering in the gutter. Amazing. What a complete waste of water! Why not sweep the paving? The sand comes back, unerringly, indefatigably, every single day, because, what do you know, we live in the desert, and it's windy most of the time, and so the hired hand has to repeat this task every few days, just so that the poor Sirs and Madams don't have to walk in a bit of sand. Now I know where the 500 litres goes.

You really have to wonder, because every week or so there are grim warnings in the press about how the water is going to run out soon. There have been shortages already in some, less well-off areas (quelle surprise), and the rate of growth here just boggles the mind. Where do they get it all from, and how are they going to supply all these developments? Not just for human consumption, either. Most of these developments have water features - man-made lakes and lagoons and huge centre-piece fountains or waterfalls. It seems that most of the water here is desalinated. It is OK to drink, but everyone drinks spring water, which is sold cheaply in the supermarkets or delivered to your home if you have an office-style water-cooler. (I'd get one, but would worry about the WIFE and the KIDS congregating round it and gossiping about me). Apparently, there are underground fresh-water supplies, but they are being depleted at an alarming rate, so they say. I really hope that the people in charge know what they're doing here, because it could all go horribly wrong if they don't rein in the ridiculous levels of consumption, especially of the kind that is competely and utterly unnecessary. Come on, it is. I can't think of one defence for it.


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