March 8, 2021

An artificial answer


The rapid development of the United Arab Emirates has put significant pressure on its natural resources, with water management one of the major challenges. Easigrass argues that artificial grass could be part of the answer.

The staggering success of the UAE is well documented; in a relatively short period of time millions have flocked to the country to take advantage of its flourishing industries. The unprecedented growth of the UAE has also created its most significant environmental challenge so far – water management.

The UAE is one of the driest countries in the world yet, per capita, it uses 83% more water than the global average – 4.4 trillion litres per day. The country is now under serious pressure to become more sustainable. This unquenchable demand for water is only going to increase as more projects, more residents and more tourists come to the UAE.

It is predicted that demand will have risen 44% by 2025, yet the UAE uses its ground water 24 times faster than its natural recharge capacity. At this rate, ground water supplies will be depleted within the next 40 years. General water wastage is a major concern. It is reported that the average UAE resident can waste up to 250 litres per day. If water conservation and sustainability is a top priority, this worrying statistic needs to be addressed immediately. Simply put, for the UAE to reduce water wastage it has to reduce water usage.

One way of doing this is through the implementation of artificial grass. Dhilip Kumar, CEO of Platinum SDI, a leading sustainable development consultancy company with years of experience in the Middle-East region, said: “If our clients insist on using natural grass, we always advise them to use a native or adapted species that requires less water. If they do not insist on natural grass then we will always advise them to use artificial grass as green building standards under the Pearl Rating System also mandate a significant reduction in annual landscape irrigation demand on every project.”

This isn’t a new concept. The US state of California, for example, encourages the use of artificial grass to reduce water consumption by offering subsidies for those who install it. One of Dubai’s most innovative landscape architecture companies, desert INK, has used artificial grass in many of its recent projects. Will Bennett, of desert INK, said: “Despite being a proponent for all things natural in the softscape, we actually prefer to use artificial turf in many of our commercial projects for three main reasons: it provides a permanent ‘green’ surface all year round, environmentally speaking it has far less impact on our water resources than real grass and, when we studied the numbers, we found it cost much less than irrigating real lawn.”

Bennett added that the hard-wearing nature of artificial grass made it ideal for intensively used areas such as playgrounds and sports pitches and provided the company with a greater “versatility to design with”. He also argued that “vegetation equals green environmental credentials” in the region, adding: “This might be correct in temperate climates but in the desert maintaining a lush lawn is incredibly intensive; it requires large quantities of water, pesticides and fertilisers as well as labour.”

Artificial grass manufacturer Easigrass and desert INK developed a cost analysis study to see if artificial turf could be more sustainable from an economic point of view as well as an environmental one. Their joint study concluded that although in an 80m2 garden the initial investment would be considerably higher than that of natural grass, money spent on maintaining natural grass “surpasses that of artificial grass”. It added that after two and a half years, savings made by installing artificial grass “could be as much as 4,332 AED per year”.

The study also looked at a commercial installation of 2,000m2. It stated: “On larger projects where maintenance costs are lower, the return on investment is three years. After this, the savings made by installing artificial grass could be as much as 87,202 AED per year.”

Taking into account the water usage figures in the UAE, it is clear that action needs to be taken to reduce general water consumption but, more specifically, water wastage. Artificial grass offers a solution, with no water needed to keep it green. If every villa, park, hotel and school stopped or, at the very least, reduced the amount of water used on growing natural grass, the savings could go a long way to moderating  Dubai’s water consumption.

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