Can I drink the water in Dubai?
Water: the element of life. If you’re from the West, you probably take it for granted. But when you’re in the desert? That’s a different story.
There are many myths and misconceptions about the quality of Dubai’s tap water (hair loss, dry skin, and premature aging)
So visitors and newcomers to Dubai are right to wonder: is it safe to drink the tap water here, or am I better off going with the bottled version?
The answer is not as straightforward as you might suspect. There are loads of different opinions on the topic. To give you a fair understanding of it, we’re here to give you all the information. That way, you can make up your mind for yourself.
To dig to the bottom of this well to find an answer, we need to start with the basics.
Where does Dubai’s water come from?
Where does Dubai’s water come from?
Located on Dubai’s coast, the UAE’s biggest electricity and water plant, spits out 550 million gallons of water a day.
The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) operates a number of plants at Jebel Ali that produce energy and desalinate water to turn into drinkable water.
Water from the Arabian Gulf is piped in on a daily basis, with intake valves located as far as one kilometer out to sea. Steam is generated by heating the seawater, and this is used to either drive turbines to make power, or driven into desalinization units.
What is desalination?
Desalinization is a fancy word that means “removing salt from water”.
There are a few different ways to do this. At Jebel Ali, reverse osmosis (or RO if you want to sound cool) is the preferred method. This involves pushing the steam of heated seawater through a filtering membrane. The steam gathers and is collected as clear, clean water.
Desalinated water produced in this manner lacks the minerals normally present in potable water, so limestone is added to the water vessels, and chloride, calcium hardeners, and other chemical agents are used to control the quality of the water. The UAE does not, however, add fluoride to the water supply to combat tooth decay, as many other countries do.
So, is it safe?
The Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) recently held a panel that concluded that Dubai’s tap water is “completely safe to drink.” The EEG’s Chairman, Habiba Al Marashi, added, “It is important we tackle the misconception that tap water is not fit for human consumption.”
The Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Authorisation (Esma), a public safety regulatory agency, has proclaimed that the drinking water is safe for human consumption. But there’s a catch.
The maintenance of water storage tanks on residential sites is not the responsibility of the public distribution system. That means that local water tanks, if not cared for properly and inspected regularly, could compromise the quality of the water. The tanks should be cleaned every six months, according to a Dubai Municipality food safety officer, Bobby Krishna.
That means it might not be a bad idea to ask your landlord or hotel if their tanks have been cleaned lately. Using a home filtration system can add an added layer of safety and protection.
Should I buy bottled water instead?
With the proper precautions, there is no need to go to extreme lengths to avoid drinking tap water. That being said, some people in Dubai prefer to go the bottled water route.
But lugging around heavy gallon jugs of water can be a sweaty affair. Luckily, there are services that deliver the water to your doorstep regularly, which makes it quite convenient.
Restaurants will exclusively serve bottled water (either sparkling or still). Some even opt to only serve water imported from foreign lands.
It’s worth knowing a bit about the kinds of bottled water available before making a choice, though. There are lots of different options to choose from. Some use Dubai municipal water sources. There is artesian water and well water. Some bottled water companies add fluoride and minerals, some don’t.
Different filtration procedures and testing standards are applied by the companies and municipality, so it can be difficult to know the exact rigor of testing and standard of quality for each different bottled water product.
You made it all the way to the end. Now, you’re a Dubai water expert.
As a gift for making it this far, here are a couple of fun facts. First, demand for Dubai’s water drops by about 10%-15% during the winter. Second, even though Dubai is in the Desert and water is a precious commodity, there are a number of waterparks in town, including Wild Wadi Waterpark and Aquaventure Waterpark.