Drinking water in the UAE

Is it really safe to drink tap water in the UAE?

The Knowledge

I was told before I arrived in the capital that the tap water was okay to drink, but I find the taste very off-putting. My friends just stick to bottled mineral water, but I find the cost really adds up, and I’m conscious that all the plastic bottles are really bad for the environment. Do you have any advice?

There are many complaints about the tap water in the UAE – it tastes a bit funny, the hot pipes mean it often runs warm, and it’s hard (has high levels of calcium) so is not particularly good for your hair and skin. But the short answer is that tap water here in Abu Dhabi is perfectly safe to drink. All the cooking in cafés and restaurants is done using tap water, and many people happily drink it at home too. It’s desalinated, which is a very expensive way of processing sea water to make it potable, and it meets the World Health Organisation water safety standards. You don’t even need to boil it before consumption.

That said, many Abu Dhabi residents continue to use bottled water for drinking, because they don’t like the flavour of desalinated water, which tastes slightly different to fresh water. But if the water in your home tastes bad or you don’t feel well after drinking it, of course you should listen to what your body is telling you and stop consuming it. Often, standalone tanks and water pipes in older buildings and villas can be carrying contaminants such as sediment or leached chemicals from plastic, or bacteria could even be breeding in the tank.

You have a few options if this is the case. Home filtration test kits are available, but it’s also worthwhile getting a professional laboratory test. These cost around Dhs4,000, which, admittedly, is quite expensive, but the cost could be shared between tenants or you could demand your building owner foots the bill.

If you just don’t like the flavour, though, and end up using endless plastic bottles, you can assuage your conscience a little by taking all those empties to recycling bins. Across the city, there are a handful of recycling centres, including the lobby of Adnec, behind the National Bank of Abu Dhabi on the corner of 4th and 15th streets, and in the grounds of the Abu Dhabi Municipality building on Salam Street. And, to be extra environmentally conscious, stick to locally bottled water rather than imported varieties to cut down on the carbon footprint of transporting the water around the world.

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