In the midst of speculation around the safety of bottled water, Jason Moore, co-founder of Local Food explains why UAE tap water isn’t necessarily the better option
When deciding whether tap water, bottled drinking water or natural mineral water is best for you in the UAE, It’s smart to base your decision on the container; the method of storage and the delivery of the water; and finally the underlying asset, the water itself.
A recent article in the press argued that UAE tap water is better for your health than water from a plastic bottle. And while I agree that reducing our plastic consumption is good for the environment and would be better for our health, it’s important to consider how healthy each of the water options is first of all – whether it’s tap water, bottled drinking water (bottled in the UAE), or imported natural mineral water.
BPA, an industrial chemical that has been used to make plastic bottles since the 1960s, and which is a potentially toxic substance that has been linked to human health risks, is no longer used for disposable plastic bottles of drinking water. Instead, the bottles are made using polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, which has been proven by health authorities across the world to be safe. Disposable bottles are marked as PET plastic with a number 1 in a triangle to identify them as a safer choice for consumers.
Glass is another alternative container for both local purified waters and imported natural mineral water. That being said, most water containers in offices and home water coolers are made of a different type of plastic which do contain BPA. I know of only two local bottled drinking water brands that use non-BPA PET in their four-gallon water containers. Tap water on the other hand, is clearly not at risk of plastic contamination since it travels through pipes. However, some UAE residents fear contamination of their tap water in the holding tanks of older villas.
“All water in the UAE is highly regulated so that it is safe for human consumption, but the question is, what is the best way to hydrate your body and take care of the environment at the same time?”
In terms of storage and delivery, have you ever left your bottle of water in the car during the summer and consumed it later, only to find it has a taste of plastic? Sometimes consumers smell or taste plastic in their purified bottled drinking water and natural mineral water directly from the shelf. This can be due to several factors during water delivery including heat, sunlight, the thickness of the plastic bottle, time in the bottle, and movement. If you are worried, ask your water company about the temperature of their warehouses and for imported natural mineral water, ask companies if they ship during the very hot summer months. Additionally, be sure to trust your own instincts: if you taste or smell plastic in your water, it might be a sign that unwanted plastic is entering your body. Some consumers have found that thinner plastic bottles tend to interact with water more.
When it comes to the water itself, all of the water bottled in the UAE is “bottled drinking water”. The GCC Standardisation Organisation GSO 1025/2012 definition of bottled drinking water is “treated drinking water intended for human consumption, which may contain or have added to it, natural minerals”. This water is clean and safe for human consumption. Tap water is also treated and is safe for human consumption, although it might have more chlorine in it than bottled drinking water, since tap water needs protection from contamination during its journey through the pipes.
Rather than drinking bottled drinking water, which is stripped of all its natural minerals during the purification process, and then has minerals added back in, many consumers prefer to drink natural mineral water. Imported water to the UAE is almost always natural mineral water, and the definition of this by the GCC Standardisation Organisation GSO 987/2012 is “water obtained directly from natural or drilled sources from underground water bearing strata, for which due precautions should be taken to avoid possible pollution affecting its chemical or physical properties”.
The labeling of all bottled waters in the UAE is audited and highly regulated by local authorities, therefore, the easiest way to tell if a water is natural or purified is to look for the three words on the label. It will either say, ‘natural mineral water’ or ‘bottled drinking water’.
In conclusion, all water in the UAE is highly regulated so that it is safe for human consumption, but the question is, what is the best way to hydrate your body and take care of the environment at the same time? I prefer to drink natural mineral water in recyclable PET bottles, however, my advice is to analyse the water’s journey from the source to your mouth to decide what is best for you.