DUBAI // Just out of curiosity, Angela Murlowski wanted to know just how much water was dripping from her air-conditioning unit. So she placed a plastic bin under the machine and waited. In the space of a day, it filled more than once. "It's about 80 to 100 litres a day," she said. She now uses the collected condensation, which is purer than tap water, to water the plants in her courtyard.
"Anybody could do this," she said, lamenting what she saw as a lack of interest in the natural environment among most residents. "We've changed the desert so much - introducing so many cars, things like that - that plants are actually really important. There's not enough foliage here to clean the air." Habiba al Marashi, chairwoman at the Emirates Environmental Group, said Ms Murlowski's scheme could work on a much larger scale.
"This is an excellent thing," she said. "I would encourage more people to do it, because this is the best way to irrigate. I've seen a water feature in Dubai that uses water from air conditioners." Water conservation efforts are happening in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, both of which are drawing up green building codes. In August, water-saving taps and shower heads will be installed in 100,000 homes and public buildings in the capital.
But Ms Murlowski believes change needs to start with individual actions. "There isn't a feeling of community here, people don't feel any responsibility to the places they live," she explained. "If you don't care about the environment, you lose touch with who you are. Human beings, by nature, have a need to be responsible. When they are irresponsible, they feel lost. When you feel you have an obligation, it gives you a sense of satisfaction. You feel you belong."