The sustainability and usefulness of Dubai’s artificial palm-shaped Island has been widely debated but I think a recent problem at one luxury complex has ironically helped raise awareness of how difficult life can be without water. Water system failure at the seven-building Oceana complex means that Dubai residents have been forced to shower in pools, scrub down in the sea and rely on toilets facilities at nearby shopping centres.
The Middle East is notorious for its water scarcity. As well as topping the charts at the most water insecure region in the world along with sub-Saharan Africa, there have been numerous reports pointing out that the problem is set to get worse when climate change kicks in. Despite these reports, statistics and warnings, it is still hard to actually visualise what life would be like without a steady flow of water.
The ease with which we have access to clean water means that many of us barely stop to think about how much we rely on it. Washing our clothes is a simple case of putting our clothes in the washing machine, pressing a few buttons and off it goes. The same goes for when we flush our toilets. Do you know how much water your washing machine or toilet goes through in every use? Do you know how much water is takes to shower? I know I don’t know.
The only sense I got of how much water my toilet uses was when it broke down and I had to pour lots and lots of water down it to flush it. After a while it was a case of ‘If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down’.
So, next time you turn the tap on and water comes out- remember that it may not always be that way especially if you live in the Middle East. What’s more, the hardship that residents of the Oceana complex are currently experiencing in Dubai is only a fraction of the impact that large-scale water shortages would have on agriculture, the economy as well as political stability.
(The floating islands in Dubai have also been shown to have a negative impact on the surrounding marine environment, with reports of stagnating water attracting mosquitoes and algae.)
For more on water issues in the Middle East: