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Sun 23 Dec 2007 10:38 AM

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Waste not want not

With water shortages becoming commonplace throughout the world, CID takes a look at some of the latest examples of water-saving devices.

In a world that is beginning to suffer acute water shortages, the UAE is badly situated in one of its driest areas. It has been estimated that Arab states will need to invest US $100 billion on desalination over the next decade if demand for water continues to grow at its current pace. So far this very desalination has been the salvation of the Middle East, accounting for 80% of the UAE's water supply, however it comes at a price.

"So far desalination is working," says Hisham Ahmed, technical manager, Dubai Municipality. "The problem with the process is that it is very expensive and uses huge amounts of energy making it harmful to the environment. We have to use it because the UAE is one of the three largest consumers of water in the world."

This consumption, which sees 550 litres being used per capita in Abu Dhabi, the second highest in the world according to the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, is expected to rise further given the expected growth in tourism and resultant transit population. Add to this the construction boom that is taking place all over the Gulf and the problem is merely compounded.

Many sanitaryware companies are now taking the call for sustainability seriously with a range of products that reduce the amount of water used. "Water is the most precious commodity we have. You don't need to consume oil to survive but you need to consume water, so we must protect it," says David Kohler, executive vice president, Kohler.

The company introduced its Steward waterless urinals last year to combat the wasted water that comes from urinals flushing automatically, regardless of whether they are being used or not. The urinal features a cartridge-free integral trapway that is filled with Kohler Waterless Urinal Sealing Liquid. The design of the trapway allows liquid to pass through the sealing liquid into the waste pipe. Once the liquid has passed through, the less dense sealing liquid maintains its position at the top of the trapway, providing an impermeable barrier blocking odours.

According to Kohler the use of such urinals can lead to typical savings of up to 150,000 litres of water per fixture, per year, versus a standard 3.5 litre urinal based on the same usage. Duravit has its own waterless urinal called McDry. Based on a similar principal involving a sealing liquid to trap the urine, the McDry's small pore-free surface also reduces bacteria and cleaning requires a bucket of water and a urinal cleaning spray.

Touchless, electronic controls are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in commercial interiors for their hygienic properties, easy temperature control and water conservation implications. Geberit's HyTronic infra-red controls available for WCs, urinals and taps means that water is only used when it is needed. Geberit's HyTronic urinal controls, for example, are programmed to vary both the frequency and the volume of the flush to suit the usage pattern over time. The volume of water is automatically reduced in periods of high usage and increased to maximum again after a predetermined period without use. This can result in savings of up to 60%.

Taps can often deliver a flow rate of up to 20 litres/min depending on the pressure. Ideal Standard has developed one way of reducing this amount through its Ceramix Alto single lever basin mixer using click cartridge technology. The click cartridge creates a resistance when the flow is at 50%, which is enough for hand-washing. Greater pressure is needed to move it to its full flow potential.

It is a common perception that showers use less water than baths. However, power showers are increasingly more popular and even a quick five-minute shower using a poorly designed power shower can use up to 60 -70 litres. German company Hansgrohe uses its Raindance AIR showers to enrich one litre of water with three litres of air resulting in more volume and skin coverage and up to ten percent less water being used, depending on the pressure.

Significant quantities of domestic water use in commercial premises results from flushing toilets. In the absence of urinals this can account for up to 75% of water use in washrooms. Victor Schoone of Roca Middle East recommends installing dual flush (3 and 6 litre) cisterns such as the company's Duplo range, which significantly reduce unnecessary water wastage.

Some companies such as Roca are going even further than just creating water efficient products. "We offer products based on the latest technology in energy and water conservation. We also offered a trade-in programme for Roca taps, which was implemented for hotel facilities, in order to encourage hoteliers to replace older models with more efficient units adapted for the heavy use usually seen in these types of establishments," explains Victor Schoone of Roca Middle East. With the world now facing a future of chronic water shortages, it is encouraging to see the major bathroom manufacturers spending time and money on R&D to reduce the pressure on the world's most precious resource.

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