Dubai's Waterman 1961
In 1960, Dubai had no fresh water source. A stagnant pond in an area that later became Karama which was occasionally refreshed by rainwater; communal sweet water well at Al Fahidi Fort and and another at Jumeirah were all that provided Dubai’s fresh water needs. Residents either collected their own water or had it delivered to their homes by donkey carts at 25 Fils a gallon. Either way the Residents drank contaminated water. Cholera was an ever present risk. Outbreaks were common. Anti-Pollutant Water Tablets introduced in 1959 helped reduce the risk. Sheikh Rashid was concerned so when he heard of a Water Engineer working in Qatar, he immediately invited him to Dubai.
Sheikh Rashid's Invitation to Eric Tulloch
Eric Tulloch, the Water Engineer, moved to Dubai in 1959 at Sheikh Rashid's Invitation where he was appointed State Water Engineer. Catalyst for Sheikh Rashid's invitation was the pending wedding of his daughter to the Emir of Qatar. Sheikh Rashid wanted his Wedding Guests to have running fresh water.
Dubai Water Department
Eric Tulloch established Dubai Water Department in 1959. One of DWD’s new employees was Gerry Wain. Gerry retired from Manchester Fire Brigade in UK, moving to Dubai in 1954 to service and sell Angus fire extinguishers. Gerry’s new job with DWD was to connect properties to the new water distribution system. Properties were required to have roof tanks to store fresh water but the problem was how to get water into these roof tanks. Solution was high level large capacity water storage tanks positioned around Dubai and Deira. Water was constantly pumped from Al Awir into these tanks. From there it flowed into the distribution system then the roof top tanks.
Selling Dubai's Water at a Profit
Availability of fresh water had a commercial impact on Dubai. Ships visiting the Gulf needed good quality fresh water for their boilers. Most Gulf Ports offered fresh water that contained too many salts to put into boilers. Dubai’s fresh water didn’t have high salts content! Sheikh Rashid gave Gray Mackenzie and Co. the sole right to sell fresh water to ships calling at Dubai. GM bought fresh water from DWD at DH5 a gallon and sold it to ships at DH50 a gallon. More ships began to call at Dubai just to take on water. Sheikh Rashid and Gray Mackenzie were very happy!
Over time problems began to develop with Dubai’s fresh water distribution system. Roof tanks were not sealed so vermin, birds, sand etc. entered and contaminated the water. What was drinkable when it entered the roof tank was undrinkable out of the tap. As Dubai rapidly developed during the 1980s , water pressure generated by high level tanks became insufficient to get water to flow into the increasing number of roof tanks. Residents started installing electric pumps to pump water their main water pipe to their roof tanks. This led to more Resident installed pumps competing for the same declining water supply.
Greening of Dubai & Changing Water Needs
The Greening of Dubai contributed to Dubai's water problem. Residents now wanted beautiful gardens and willingly poured Dubai’s fresh water onto their struggling plants and lawns irrespective of the cost or consequences. Dubai Municipality had developed a modern Sewage Works which produced fresh water as a by-product. Authorities did not want to chemically treat this water to drinkable quality. Instead it was used exclusively for irrigating vegetation on road median strips and public parks. By mid 1980s Dubai Aluminium was generating desalinated water as part of its manufacturing process. All its water output was put back into the sea until work on Emirates Golf Club started. Then Dubai Aluminium became the primary and only source of water for Emirates Golf Club. In early 1990s DUBAL was reported to be providing EGC with over one million gallons of desalinated water each day. This led to an acceptance of desalinated water and its increasing use. Dubai’s Electricity and Water Department, originally established in 1963, now links new power generation and water generation development projects to meet both Dubai’s growing water and power needs.