No running water for almost a month

Residents have to buy water from tankers which deliver to their homes every few days. But this is proving to be too expensive for many.

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UMM AL QUWAIN // Families living in one of Umm Al Quwain's oldest neighbourhoods say they have been without running water for almost a month.

Residents in Salama have been relying on regular deliveries of water to wash, cook and clean since supplies stopped

It is being brought in by specially chartered tankers, a practice that is proving expensive for many.

Mohammed Ibrahim said he was spending almost Dh600 a week on the deliveries.

"The problem is that water shortages in Salama, especially in block 5, are with us every summer," he said. "Whenever summer starts we start to worry about water supplies and about spending more of our money on water."

Cuts to the supply in Salama, and the rest of the emirate, are not uncommon and occur every five days or so. Most of the problems are down to UAQ's ageing system of underground pipes, which often burst and leak into the streets. Salama residents say this is a common sight.

The stoppages are usually an inconvenience lasting three hours to half a day, with water dropped off by tanker to make up for the break in service.

But the current month-long disruption is much more serious and has taken its toll on long-suffering residents.

Nasser Rashid, an Emirati, said that he has to buy 1,000 gallons of water for Dh120 from the distribution lorries at least three times a week.

"I cannot pay more money for water as even the utility bill will come at the month's end," he said.

"The problem is some lorries don't want to supply us water at Dh120, saying they are busy with other clients willing to pay more."

Saqqar Humaid, also a Salama resident, said he that he had contacted the Federal Electricity and Water Authority (Fewa) about the issue and was assured it would be fixed quickly. However, it has persisted.

Mohammed Khalil, the authority's director of corporate communications, said they were working on solving the problem and have commissioned tankers to continue to distribute water to families in the area.

He said Fewa will resume pumping water to homes this week.

"The whole of Umm Al Quwain consumes a total of 5.5 million gallons of water each day," said Mr Khalil. "We are doubling the number of water supply lorries to meet this whole demand at present."

Mr Khalil said the authority is working on a project, to be completed by the end of the year, to build a network of pipes linked to the main UAQ water station.

It is hoped this scheme, along with a 61km, Dh164 million pipeline project recently announced by Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE, will solve UAQ's water problems. The latter project will have the capacity to supply about 20 million gallons of water a day to the emirate.

A common complaint from residents in UAQ is that the bills issued by Fewa do not take into account the disruption to services, with the authority charging for utilities regardless of problems with the supply.

Even for areas in the emirate that have a regular supply of water to homes, the quality of the water is not as good as others parts of the country. Residents have complained that it is often too salty to drink.

"We have been promised good, desalinated water but until now it has not yet come," said Salah Ahmed, who lives in Al Shababiya in UAQ.