Tell us a little about Propelair® and your journey?
I, (David Pryce, distributor, Propelair UAE) arrived in the UAE in July 1977 on a mission to plant 80,000 trees in the desert near a place called Ghayathi, where the first houses were just being built. We had to drill 13 wells to a depth of about 120 feet to access slightly brackish water, our contract was just one of dozens and it was my first job in the environmental sphere.
By 2007 I had moved fully into environmental work in energy and water efficiency measures and, in later years, my company Tellus Sustainability was born. The beginning was a struggle because no one cared about water at all and there was little interest in saving energy; government subsidies were high, utility tariffs were low. Unfortunately, subsidies give birth to waste!
Out of nostalgia, I made a return to Ghayathi in August 2018 and I saw that about 70% of the trees I lovingly planted and nurtured were dead, the pumping equipment removed, the well heads covered over. Why? Ground water in this arid region is precious, limited and largely depleted and what we had attempted was unsustainable, ground tables were dropping. The water had been turned off.
The present and water waste Fast forward 45 years from my first day in the UAE and what we’re doing with our daily water in the Middle East is still unsustainable and I’m still on a mission. Utility subsidies have slowly been reduced and for sure there is some action being taken by a few to conserve water but the problem, I believe, is an awareness issue or, rather, lack of it. Almost all of our water comes from desalination (57% of the world’s desalination plants are in the GCC) and desalinated water carries not only a heavy financial cost but also a hefty carbon burden at about 700 gms/CBM.
I mentioned awareness – commercial operators don’t appear to fully understand the impact their bathroom operations have on water use. Take a recent case where we monitored staff and common area/guest toilets in a 4 star hotel. Eight toilets, which management said were being flushed up to 90 times a day, recorded a daily average flush frequency of 142.4, each! That results in a staggering 4, 573,888 litres a year being flushed away and a water bill of AED 50,313.
It is because of this enormous waste of water that I am so excited about a product I took on recently.
Propelair® ‘The Toilet Reinvented’ is a British innovation which entered the UK market 5 years ago but only made an appearance this year in the Middle East. It has several features which overall make it an amazing and exciting product to work with.
By far the most important of these is that, where conventional toilets use a minimum of 7 litres to flush, Propelair® uses only 1.5 litres, a huge 79% reduction in water use. It does this by using a mixture of high pressure air and a little water and, yes, it flushes cleanly.
Other features are a rimless bowl for ease of cleaning/enhanced hygiene, a seat horizontally hinged so it is solid (no more wobbly/broken toilet seats), a lid which must be closed for the flush operation to work and which automatically flushes on closure (again, enhanced hygiene as the aerosol effect has now been removed, thus limiting the spread of viruses/bacteria) and a steri tab for raising/lowering the toilet seat; this is permanently self sterilising.
Retrofitting is generally a simple job and in the above example of the 4 star hotel property, will result in a water saving of 3,118,560 litres every year for only 8 toilets. The utility bill will drop from AED 50,313 to 16,009 with a rapid return on investment in this instance of only 1.7 years. We’ll also reduce the hotels carbon load by 2,182.99 kgs. Now think what those figures might be like for operators who have 50, 100 a thousand or more toilets. It’s mind blowing.
What impact is Propelair® Trying to make?
The impact we’re trying to make is an unequivocal positive effect on the environment by reducing the wastage of water. It is estimated conservatively that 224 billion litres of water are flushed away every year in the UAE alone. By reducing the flush from a minimum of 7 litres to only 1.5 litres we are:
- Reducing the demand to produce more water by desalination – an energy and thus carbon intensive process
- Reducing the amount of water that needs to be stored and pumped to the end user – thus saving energy and carbon
- Reducing the amount of sewage that has to be pumped and treated – thus saving energy and carbon
- By reducing desalination needs we are also reducing the amount of concentrated brine being pumped back into the sea – thus having a positive effect on the marine environment
Propelair® will reduce at least 79% of water waste across millions and millions of toilets – Effectively, we’re working to help save the planet, one flush at a time.
What sets Propelair® apart? The common, and very necessary, toilet has not changed substantially in decades other than small reductions in flush volumes. With the birth of Propelair®, the current versions are instantly obsolete. Nothing in this field has ever offered vastly improved hygiene, easier cleaning, a truly solid seat connection and, above all, a staggering 79% savings on water use, all in one neat, simple to retrofit package.
Where do you aspire to be in 5 years? We will have newer, lower cost versions available which will be easier to install. We will strive to continue to roll out to every commercial operator in the Middle East where water is so scarce and we hope to be able to start working on domestic models too.