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Tap water is safe, but what about the tanks?

Olivia Olarte-Ulherr / 17 July 2012

The emirate’s tap water is safe to drink, probably more so than bottled water, experts said. But unclean water tanks render them unsuitable for drinking.

“We all need our own tap water to be tested by a laboratory, that is the only way we can know its quality,” Rukshana Kausar from Liquid of Life told the Ministry of Interior’s 999 magazine. She cited one test where a company’s bottled water contained 12 times more bacteria than the office’s tap water.

“Tap water is probably safer than bottled water,” she said noting that drinking tap water can also result in 80 per cent savings in cost.

Among the seven emirates, Abu Dhabi (including Al Ain), Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah produce very high quality of water from desalination plants.

Water quality in other emirates meanwhile varies, with parts of Sharjah, Ajman and Fujairah —where groundwater is used— producing poor quality, according to the July edition of 999.

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Tap water should be tested in a laboratory to confirm its quality as it can be contaminated by unclean water tanks and pipeline. — KT file photo for illustrative purpose

“The standards set for quality here follow the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for non-bottled drinking water and the International Food Code (CODEX) for bottled water. Everything is in place to regulate world-class drinking water,” the report stated.

However, the journey it takes before reaching the consumers -from the bottling plant or desalination plant- spells the difference on the water’s potability. For tap water, dirty water tanks, and ageing and unclean water pipes make water undrinkable.

In the UAE, where majority of residents live in flats, tenants are reliant on landlords to clean the tanks regularly, some of whom are not keen to spend money to clean tanks and disinfect the pipelines, and often assigns this task to the watchman. But cleaning water storage tanks should be left for the professionals, said cleaning experts.

Dead birds, rats, metal and other organic litter found inside water tanks can spread bacteria and diseases while stale water stored for a long time can encourage mould and bacteria to grow. High levels of copper, lead, mercury and chlorine from natural contamination can also cause water to have a strong taste and odour and could be damaging to health.

“It is compulsory to clean your water tank every six months in Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and the municipalities carry out inspections. They also take bacteria and micro-biological tests and we take an extra one for Legionnaire’s Disease,” Ahmed Abdulla, general manager of Magic Touch Group in the UAE, which cleans water tanks, told 999.

Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal lung infection (pneumonia) that is caused by the legionella bacteria and is caught by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water.



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