x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

All's well with alternative supply … just don't drink from it

A Fujairah resident uses well water to supply his family's needs, but laboratory testing shows that the water is too salty for humans to drink.

FUJAIRAH // Obaid Al Khadeem and most other Emiratis in Fujairah rely on a source of water unavailable to many elsewhere in the country: the well.

Mr Al Khadeem and his wife, their five children and three domestic helpers use tap water for cooking and bottled water for drinking.

"This is our private well," he said, pointing to a shaft at one end of the courtyard.

Built a decade ago at the time the house was being constructed, the well pumps water from a depth of about 70 metres to a tank on top of the family's spacious villa in Dibba.

The house was built with a pipe network that carries the well water to all rooms but the kitchen. The family uses it to shower, wash clothes and clean the house.

Mr Al Khadeem, 47, said the water was clean enough for drinking.

"If it comes to it, it is not a problem, we can drink it," he said. "The water is not salty."

The plants on the compound thrive on the well water. The family maintains a colourful garden of marigolds and bougainvillea shrubs, and some grass.

There is also an orchard with mango, lemon and orange trees, and a small garden with capsicum, tomatoes and other seasonal vegetables.

"If the water was too salty, the flowers would not bloom," Mr Al Khadeem said.

It can cost up to Dh10,000 to have a well installed but the expense was worth it, he said. The system provided as much as 1,500 litres a day, virtually free of charge, meaning a much smaller utility bill.

But this month, The National took water samples from Mr Al Khadeem's well.

The well water had a high amount of total solids, or particles suspended in the water and minerals dissolved in it.

A total of 2,268 milligrams a litre (mgl) were measured in the sample, compared with the 1,000mgl limit for drinking water set by the World Health Organisation.

The water also contained too much chloride. At 970mgl the level was almost four times the limit. And based on the amount of calcium carbonate, it is classified as a very hard water.

The results mean the water is not fit for drinking, said Liwelyn Villapando, the manager for research and development at Core Laboratory in Dubai, which conducted the tests.

Provided the family has not complained of skin irritations or hair problems, they can continue using the water for cleaning and showering, Ms Villapando said.

"People with sensitive skin may feel itchiness because of the high salt content," she said.

"But for those who have tolerance it is OK, provided they do not swallow it."


* The Dubai water samples were obtained in December last year, following procedures specified by Core Laboratory, where the sample was later tested.

The end of the tap was cleaned with an antibacterial wipe. The tap was turned on and the water left running for one minute before two samples, each a litre, were taken.

They were kept in cold storage and taken to the laboratory where technicians looked for the presence of disease-causing microbes, and analysed the water’s chemical content based on 17 different parameters.

The samples were analysed for their conductivity, pH balance and what experts call total solids, or the amount of suspended and dissolved solids in the water.

The testing also measured the amount of minerals such as chloride, sulphate, fluoride, cyanide and residual chlorine, and the amount of trace metals such as copper, iron and lead.

The results were compared to guidelines established by the World Health Organisation and the Gulf Standards Organisation.
The samples met the requirements on all parameters.