x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Water wastage a concern for us all

In a desert nation like the UAE, we must all conserve the precious resource of water, and be prepared to pay for what we use.

Water is a scarce resource in the UAE, and the way it is used - or wasted - must be of vital interest to everyone who lives here. And, while we should expect to pay our fair share for our household supply, nobody expects to be landed with a Dh54,000 bill for just four months' consumption. But that's exactly what happened to the Furniturewala family in Dubai's Arabian Ranches. As The National reported yesterday, a crack in the underground pipe that supplies their home led to the loss of nearly one million gallons through leakage.

The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) had been sending estimated bills - based on readings from an old meter that was replaced - for four months before landing the family with the huge invoice in June. Juzer Furniturewala said the revised bill came after he made a complaint about a lack of water coming into his villa, which led to the discovery of the leak half a metre below their parking space. Dewa has said it will investigate the situation and alter the bill, which Mr Furniturewala is paying by instalments, if his claims prove to be correct.

While the facts of this particular case may be unclear as yet, what is abundantly clear is that a million gallons is a lot of wasted water in a parched nation that relies on dwindling underground supplies and expensive desalination plants. In general, it is the duty of individual customers to monitor their water consumption, but it should also be the utility's responsibility to flag atypical usage patterns. If a single villa is registering an unusually high volume, surely alarm bells should ring.

This case would also seem to highlight a number of grey areas in terms of responsible water use in this country. Individually, we all must consume water with an eye towards conservation, homeowners and renters alike. Yet it is those who use water in large quantities - car wash companies, construction firms, farmers, landscapers - that are duty bound to implement policies and procedures that don't send gallons of water needlessly down the literal drain.

On top of all this, the UAE has one of the world's highest per capita water consumptions, but bills are subsidised, so some people may not appreciate the true cost of the water they use. We all need to conserve this precious resource, and that means we must monitor our consumption and be prepared to pay when we exceed a normal level of usage.