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Drinking Water in Dubai – Bottled, Filtered or Straight from the Tap?

How safe is Drinking Water in DubaiOne of the things that we all do in Dubai is drink BOTTLED water. And even though we have been reassured by the municipality time and again that our tap water is in fact “safe to drink” – there isn’t a lot of buy in from the public (but more on this later). So for most of us bottled water is really the only  available source of drinking water in Dubai.

Now coming from Canada, where tap water is safe to drink and where drinking bottled water is considered an extravagance, having to switch to the bottle was concerning to me on a number of levels. For one thing, not a lot of companies specify that their bottles are BPA Free here. Add to that the fact that when heated, or left in the car in hot weather which is pretty much every single day in Dubai, plastic made from BPA tends to release harmful chemicals into any substance it contains. Now as careful/vigilant as one might be about leaving a bottle in the sun, the fact is all that water, whether it be from the big gallon jugs we have delivered to our homes and offices or from the smaller bottles that we get from our grocery stores or find at our restaurants, has been transported on trucks and exposed to sun and heat for an unknown number of hours – possibly even days. And then there’s the environmental impact that thousands, I’d say even MILLIONS, of these plastic bottles have on our planet, especially when you consider that we live in a country where you have to really work hard to recycle.

That being said, after doing a bunch of research on it (which involved me looking at different bottled water companies, reading up on home filtration systems – that practically don’t exist – and even seriously considering drinking straight from the tap), I figured there wasn’t much that could really be done in this situation and so I embraced chugging water from bottles like a true Dubia’n. Of course I did convince the family to pay more (and get less) for Masafi @  home – mainly because their water comes from a local spring, at least their gallon jugs are BPA Free and they do not reuse their bottles (YIKES for the environment – but luckily they do recycle the plastic, phew)

But then that was almost 5 years ago – so let’s fast forward to today…

So from time to time we’ve gotten a flyer stuck to the apartment door about having a home water purification system installed. Something I’ve been interested in looking into (particularly a carbon block one) for a while but for some reason or other couldn’t seem to coordinate a time for someone to come in and give us a demo. Well that was until last weekend anyways.

Now I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a demo for one of these units before, but Saturday was the first time I ever have so when the sales guy for Pure Tech showed up dressed in a suit and carted in a laptop case with him I really didn’t know what to expect. It turns out it’s pretty much like any sales pitch with the exception of a simple water quality test where you provide 2 (and in my case 3) samples of water and he places 2 electrodes into each glass to allow any particles to settle out of them. He also does the test using his filtered tap water and I think the results are quite awe inspiring, they kind of speak for themselves don’t they:

Drinking Water in Dubai - Pure Tech Demo

So let me give you the low down of his explanation:

  1. Yellow – is simply the minerals in the water that have reacted with the charged ions
  2. Orange scum – i.e. what you see on top of the bottled water is apparently due to chemicals that are almost always (with the exceptions being more expensive brands like Evian plus a few more which I can’t remember, sorry) added to prevent any harmful bacteria from growing in it over time
  3. Blackish green – is rust, dust and other particles that get into the water from the storage tanks and the pipes.

Now I rarely take anything anyone, especially a sales rep, says at face value…and it’s a good thing too since it turns out that this “electrolysis test” is actually bogus, in fact some people are even calling it an outright scam:

As it turns out that orange scum on top of the bottled water is really the minerals it contains, which act as the electrolyte in this “experiment”. And based on the video, I’d venture to say that the tap water turns a murky greenish black probably because it’s desalinized sea water and probably still contains a bit of salt in it. As for the yellowish tint in the filtered water, from what I can gather from the Pure Tech pamphlet, unlike the systems mentioned in the video, their reverse osmosis (RO) filtration system adds a select number of minerals – but from the look of it not very many – back into the water after filtration.

You know I’m quite disappointed that this was a fake test because it made me not want to consider the Pure Tech filter at all – I mean who wants to buy something from someone who’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes, right?

But to be fair to myself, my family and all of our health in the long run, I do think that while RO filters aren’t 100% ideal, they do remove a lot of impurities including bacteria, parasites, pesticides, heavy metals like lead, mercury or arsenic and flouride (which is a controversial topic all on its own). Unfortunately they also remove essential trace minerals that our body needs and while the Pure Tech filter adds some of these back in, this is more like taking a vitamin instead of eating wholesome food.

SO the question remains, what is the best drinking water solution for Dubai residents…

While tap water is definitely the cheapest option, the fact that  while the Dubai Municipality assures us that the water leaving their purification plant is safe to drink, as recently as Aug 2013 they can’t guarantee that the water stored in your building’s water tank is still drinkable makes this option sketchy.

This leaves us with the bottled water vs the RO filtered water option. From a cost perspective installing a purifier at home requires a bit of an investment – the Pure Tech quote was AED 2500 – however over time the cost becomes quite a lot less (something like 40 fils per gallon vs about AED 10 per 4-5 gallon bottle).

But to be honest both are quite good options that have their own advantages and disadvantages:

Bottled Filtered
Advantages Filtered to meet drinking water standardsMay contain natural minerals (as per the label) Filter to meet drinking water standardsRemove harmful toxins commonly found in ground water due to pollution

Less expensive over time

Disadvantages Have no control over how long bottles are exposed to heatExpensive

Negative impact on the environment

Demineralized

At the same time, as per the information provided on bottled water safety by Health Canada, no research to date indicates that the claim that chemicals leach into bottled water are true.

While I’m still considering getting the RO filter installed @ home (though I’m still on the look out for a good carbon block filter),  surprisingly the sales guy at Pure Tech actually made me feel much more comfortable about drinking my bottled water!

If you are looking for how to choose a good bottled water here, check out Time Out’s article on Dubai’s Best Bottled Water.

13 replies
  1. Ashil Kothari
    Ashil Kothari says:

    Hi ,

    Great Article ,

    Considering that one opts for Bottled Drinking water ,

    Apart from the Time Out Article , it would we of great help if you can dwell into the subject of Chosing the best brand for Bottled Drinking water – Also whatb are the factors to choose one ? Sodium/Chloride Content? etc

    Reply
  2. Laura
    Laura says:

    Hi,
    Very informative. Maam I would like to have another demo to show the alkalinity of the water I’m using. All the colors of the above water on the demo falls to be acidic.

    Reply
  3. Denisa Fainis
    Denisa Fainis says:

    I believe consumers should look for “natural mineral water” written on water bottle labels. All bottled drinking water from the UAE goes through purification via reverse osmosis, which strips the water of its natural minerals. A very simple proof is switch to “natural mineral water” for one week and feel your energy change to normal as if your in your home country.

    Reply
  4. sajan
    sajan says:

    Hi, I’m pretty much in the same situation now ..thinking of whether to continue with then bottled water or to go for a filter. But my question is since muncipality water is already pretty much potable except for the storage in the building tanks which might bring in some impurity . So isn’t a regular filter with a carbon block and probably uv sufficient for drinking water or is ro required. From what I understand ro removes a lot of the minerals as well. Kindly correct me if I’m wrong

    Reply
  5. Ema Matts
    Ema Matts says:

    Thank you so much for sharing such a useful information. Basically, I use bottled water for cooking and drinking purpose and tap water for other. Which one is better bottled water pr filtered water ???

    Reply
    • Ussma
      Ussma says:

      Hi Ema- I’m glad you found the information helpful! Considering water bottled in Dubai is required to go through the RO (reverse-osmosis) process regardless of it’s origins, using a filter on your tap would in my opinion be quite similar to buying bottled water. The biggest disadvantage of RO water is the fact that natural minerals are removed and then only a select group of minerals are added back into your water – but there really isn’t a work around this as far as I know.

      Reply
  6. Ema Matts
    Ema Matts says:

    Thank you so much Ussma for your quick reply. I just get an email that you gave a reply to my question. I am not expecting that I get answers to clear my doubts. Thanks a lot again.

    Reply
  7. Ussma
    Ussma says:

    Hi Chanel – I’m really glad that you like the site’s appearance. I actually designed it using a program called Artisteer, which basically makes it really simple to create a template for your website if you are like me and have absolutely NO experience with programming. I did look around a lot and picked a few elements from different themes that I liked which I then incorporated into the design. Let me know if I can help you further and good luck!

    Reply

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