DUBAI // A third of residents say they do not understand the term "sustainable" in relation to the environment, a survey has found.
The poll of 756 residents, carried out by YouGov Siraj, also found that 28 per cent of Emiratis feared future generations would suffer a shortage of fresh water.
The results have spurred a campaign to educate young people about the need to protect the environment and in particular conserve water.
"The message of environmental conservation isn't getting through," said Monica Shina, a spokeswoman for Proctor and Gamble, which is running the campaign as part of its corporate responsibility programme.
"We have to change not just for the sake of the environment, but also for future generations," she said.
Residents consume an average of 550 litres of water a day - three times the global average.
"People need to be aware that small things like turning off the tap when you brush your teeth and using washing machines at full load can save huge amounts of water," she said. "It's important that we raise awareness, but we have to take baby steps first."
The company will set up a website called Baby Steps Arabia, while Injaz-UAE, a non-for-profit business organisation, will get involved by encouraging older teenagers to come up with water conservation ideas.
If successful, according to Sulaf al-Zu'bi, the Injaz-UAE chief executive, the organisers plan to run similar schemes in Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries.
Jamie Wasky, the associate director of YouGov Siraj, said there was a gap in environmental awareness between Emiratis and expatriates.
"Western expatriates are more aware of these environmental concerns," she said. "But awareness among Emiratis is also growing."
However, a quarter of people polled in Dubai and Abu Dhabi still doubted their actions could make a difference. There was some good news - more than half questioned in Dubai said they monitored their water consumption.