A three-month study by The National has found that tap water quality across the country varies widely by emirate, based on how the water is produced by each utility company.
Tap water in some emirates does not meet WHO standards
The quality of tap water varies widely between emirates because of differences in the way utility authorities produce it, a three-month study by The National shows.
We obtained water samples from eight households between December and March. Chemical composition and physical qualities were laboratory tested and compared against standards for drinking water set by the World Health Organisation and the Gulf Standards Organisation.
The samples from Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah were within the standards. The Sharjah, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain samples did not meet all criteria, mainly because of large amounts of dissolved salts. In Fujairah, a sample from well water was tested, but it could not be compared to those from the other emirates because the water is not generated by a process, such as desalination, but is pulled directly from the ground.
With only eight samples the study is not offered as a scientific investigation, but as a starting point for further investigation.
Most of the UAE's water is produced in plants that remove the salts dissolved in sea water. In some cases, groundwater is also used. The results, said Dr Corrado Sommariva, the president of the International Desalination Association, could indicate blending of desalinated water and well water with a much higher salt content, or an issue related to how desalination plant equipment is maintained and operated.
To determine how serious the problem is, long-term testing would have to be done with samples taken repeatedly over a period of time.
In itself, desalination is a safe and reliable method of producing good-quality potable water, said Dr Sommariva. One way to ensure consistently good water quality is monitoring by parties independent from water producers, as already happens in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, he said.