Etihad Airways has launched a year-long water saving campaign to encourage more careful consumption of water among its staff.

The campaign aims to reduce water consumption by five per cent in 2012 at the Etihad Airways Head Office complex and its offices at the nearby Etihad Plaza. The campaign is also intended to raise awareness about water saving practices that all staff and their families can implement as part of their daily schedules.

Water conservation is a critical issue in the United Arab Emirates, where ground water levels are low and usage is among the highest in the world.

The desalination of sea water provides almost all of the UAE’s drinking water. It is an energy intensive process, which releases carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the air, thus contributing significantly to Abu Dhabi’s carbon footprint.

Linden Coppell, Etihad Airways Head of Environment, said: “Many people simply do not realise that although we have an abundance of seawater, there is a huge environmental cost to produce drinkable water by desalination.

“So this campaign is both about educating our staff and their families and trying to achieve an actual reduction in water use in our offices.”

Further reductions in water consumption will be a challenge for the airline following the marked water savings that were achieved when over 14,000 water saving devices were fitted to taps in Etihad Airways headquarters and staff accommodation as part of the ‘water savers’ campaign run by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.

It is estimated that if everyone in the UAE started implementing water saving measures and changed their behaviour, 410 billion litres of water could be saved annually, the equivalent of 164,250 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The launch of the campaign, which took place earlier this month, featured many activities including talks by explorer and environment campaigner Robert Swan OBE and Dr Richard Perry from the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency, an exhibition featuring eco-friendly items and the announcement of a water saving challenge and competition for staff and families.

Other activities and lectures will be held throughout the year to reinforce the message and report on results.