DUBAI // Julie Woods always turned off the tap while brushing her teeth, washed her cars with a bucket and sponge, and even made her own cleaning products to stop harmful chemicals seeping into the environment.
So she was surprised to learn that she and her family had used an estimated 1.4 million litres of water at home in one year.
Julie jumped at an offer to install devices in her home that would reduce the use of water.
Her home in Dubai Sports City was given a green makeover in a programme by the Emirates Wildlife Society - World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF).
Two other households, in Abu Dhabi and Fujairah, were part of the initiative, which involved installing energy and water-efficient fittings to reduce consumption by 25 per cent. The work was funded through a grant from the Emirates Foundation.
"It has been great," said Julie, 41.
The improvements included aerators, which reduce the amount of water coming from a tap by mixing it with air, energy-efficient light bulbs and equipment that monitors the home's air conditioning around the clock, constantly making adjustments to save electricity.
The American mother of two insists she is no tree-hugger; she is simply environmentally conscious.
Her search for aerators began in September 2009, when she moved to Dubai with her Irish husband Ivan and their sons, Alexander, 6, and James, 3.
Julie's parents used aerators and she continued the practice as an adult, installing them when she lived in other parts of the world, including New York and China.
"I grew up with them, we always had them in the house," she said.
But the devices were not readily available in Dubai. Julie had been thinking of asking her mother to mail them from the US, but then read a story in The National about a water-saving campaign the Government was launching in Abu Dhabi.
The environmental studies and political science graduate contacted EWS-WWF, which offered to install the aerators and other improvements free.
The process started with a review of the water and electricity bills for the five-bedroom home over a year, and areas where savings could be achieved were identified.
Experts from the Dubai company Farnek Avireal made the estimate of 1.4 million litres.
Although it was high, the amount was not surprising for Ramakrishna Bhadhya, the deputy manager for consulting at the company, who oversaw the makeover.
"In this part of the world, the energy and water consumption is pretty high," he said.
The water-saving devices are expected to reduce water use in the home to about 1 million litres a year.
The amount could be cut further by installing a better filter for the family's small swimming pool, and by cleaning and re-using grey water.
But because the family does not own the house, these changes were not immediately possible.
For energy savings, the house's lights have been replaced with LEDs, which last longer and are much more efficient.
Electronic devices were installed on air-conditioning units to make them work more efficiently.
Nearly a year since the changes were introduced, the family's energy and water bills are down by between 15 and 20 per cent.
The family is also trying to do things differently at home. They take shorter showers, use the efficient programmes on the dishwasher and washing machine, and gather and re-use the water run-off from washing vegetables.
"The whole planet is suffering … there is so much you can do," Julie said. "I do think little changes add up."
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