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Quenching Facts

     Water economy, naturally    

T E Lawrence, popularly known as 'Lawrence of Arabia,' turned the course of the Arab war by crossing the burning sands of Nefud desert and trouncing the Turkish garrison at Aqaba. This daring feat was possible because of the legendary resilience of desert dwellers-the Bedouins and camels.

One known for their knowledge of the desert, and the other for its natural water economy. Life is an unending quest for water, and many organisms maintain their water-balance in an astounding variety of ways.


Water Soluttions: When threatened, the Texas Horned lizard splays its legs, lowers its head and arches its back, ready to join battle. It does the same, when it rains. Surprising? Well, actually this is a water-harvesting stance. The lizard spreads its limbs to increase its surface area and catch moisture on its body surface.

It draws water from the air by capillary action and transfers it to the mouth through thin channels, running beneath its scales. Flour beetles equal desert species in water economy techniques.

They simply manufacture water! Flour has a chemical composition of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The beetles rearrange the molecules to produce water by metabolising flour.


Hold your Breath!! That’s exactly what the Barrel cactus does to conserve water. Plants have perfected their water conservation skills too. They lose water every time they open their stomata during photosynthesis. So the Barrel cactus has devised an ingenious method.

It completes photosynthesis in two parts. During day the leaves and stems capture sunlight but the plant does not open its pores. At night when temperatures drop and humidity increases it opens the stomata and draws in air to complete photosynthesis.


Ships of Sand Seas: Camels have a complete range of water conservation techniques, needed to thrive in a desert. It can drink 115 litres at one go and store 30 per cent of its weight as water. It increases its body temperature to reduce the amount of water it would lose as sweat. The hump contains fat that is oxidized to generate 'metabolic' water.

The nose is an effective water-conserving feature. Mammals have a tissue called turbinates in their nose. A camel's turbinates is specially developed - it is cool, very dry and has a huge surface area. As water-saturated air is exhaled most of the moisture condenses on the turbinates. Now that's a neat trick isn't it?


Tricks of the trade

Bedouins are nomadic people of Negev, Sanai, Sahara and the Arabian deserts. The word, derived from Arabic means desert dwellers. Bedouins have a unique lifestyle that is tuned to the moods of the desert. Here are some Bedouin tricks, you can use to find water in a desert.

  1. Turn up half buried stones just before sunrise. The coolness causes dew to from on the surface.
  2. Dew also forms on desert grass. Soak the moisture in a cloth and wring the water into a container.
  3. Follow the bees. Within a 1000 metre radius they move to and from a water source in a straight line.
  4. Look for pigeons and doves. They can only exist near freshwater.
  5. Dig just above the high tide mark where sand dunes meet the sea. You might find a thin layer of fresh water floating above a heavier layer of salt water.
While humans struggle to find viable solutions to water woes,nature provides such amazing solutions to combat water scarcity! We cannot match nature but surely we can draw inspiration from it?


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Water economy, naturally