SHARJAH // Tap water in Sharjah also appears to contain high levels of salts, tests carried out by The National show.
The sample was taken at the home of Susan Cherian, 30, who lives with her husband Cherian and their son Nathan, 2, in a complex along Maliha Road, near the National Paints interchange off Emirates Road.
The sample had 950 milligrams a litre (mgl) of dissolved minerals.
Although the amount was just below the World Health Organisation (WHO) limit of 1,000mgl, it was high enough to be cause for concern, said Liwelyn Villapando, the manager for research and development at Core Laboratory in Dubai, which performed the tests.
Ms Villapando said output at desalination plants varied over time, meaning there were probably occasions when the amount of salts in the water was above the safe limits.
Reasons for the high amounts of dissolved solids in the Sharjah and Ajman samples are difficult to pinpoint, said Dr Corrado Sommariva, the president of the International Desalination Association.
"The analysis you gave me shows some minor departures in water from the Northern Emirates," said Dr Sommariva, who is also the managing director of the international company ILF Consulting Engineers in Abu Dhabi.
But to determine how serious the problem is, long-term testing would have to be done with samples taken over a period of time.
"The reasons could be several," said Dr Sommariva, explaining the results could indicate blending of desalinated water with well water that had a much higher salt content, or a "departure on membrane performance" related to how desalination plant equipment was maintained and operated.
As in Ajman, the amount of chloride in the Sharjah sample was high. The sample showed 284mgl compared with the recommended limit of 250mgl.Chloride salts are widely present in nature but the amount of chloride in drinking water is increased substantially by treatment processes that add the element. "This is done to avoid bacterial contamination," said Dr Ulrich Wernery, the scientific director of the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dubai. "You can see there is no bacteria in the sample."
When told of the results Mrs Cherian said she was not concerned for her family's health as they did not use tap water for drinking or cooking.
But she did say the findings might explain why she had been suffering some hair loss.
Doctors say that hard water, described as having high levels of calcium carbonate, can contribute to hair loss.
According to the US Geological Survey, the "hard water" description applies when it contains more than 180mgl of calcium carbonate. The sample contained 232mgl.
"We should do something, maybe we should purify [the water]," Mrs Cherian said.
Saeed Al Ali, who lives in a villa near Sharjah International Airport, said the Government could help by allowing people to buy good-quality water filters at reduced prices.
"If they provide a filter for every house, this will be good," said Mr Al Ali, 42, who works as a fire-safety manager.
The Emirati father of four has a small well in his yard and uses the water from it for his garden and to wash his car.
The family relies on tap water for cooking, washing and showers but they buy bottled water to drink or boil for hot beverages.
"I think there are some chemicals in it," said Mr Al Ali, explaining his distrust of tap water. "It is not pure."
Dr Sommariva said desalination was a safe and reliable method of producing good-quality potable water. One way to ensure consistent good water quality is through independent monitoring.
"The Government needs to engage third parties to verify compliance with the WHO and Gulf requirements," he said, adding this was already done in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.