Dubai: From 2020 restaurants in Dubai will be advised to offer free tap water and landlords will be responsible for testing the quality of their tanks, according to new guidelines in the Dubai Food Code unveiled on Monday.
Launched at the Dubai International Food Safety Conference at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, the measures aim to reduce the use of single-use plastics and align with the latest in international best practice for the coming year.
Much of this is routine with improved training for food handlers, but the push to convert people to drinking tap water in order to cut down on single use plastics is a new feature in the code. An annual publication, it will be available for download online next month.
“Whenever you go to restaurants or hotels, you will now be seeing drinking water regulations. If you want to have a cup of water, you will see you can get it from the tap or from the bottle and you just have to select which one,” said Amal Al Bedwawi, Head of the Drinking Water Control Unit at Dubai Municipality.
“We are treating it as a new trend to protect the environment and reduce the use of single use plastics,” she added.
While this drive will just be an advisory to begin with, Gulf News understands that it is with the view to eventually becoming law.
As for whether restaurants would then have to offer tap water for free, Al Bedwawi said, “There’s no study on this yet, but around the world it’s not being sold, so we’re not going to sell it here.”
The success of this move relies on Dubai Municipality changing people’s perception of tap water and gaining people’s trust, she added.
“Water that comes from the tap is filtered anyway, tap water comes as drinking water,” she said. “But when it’s stored in tanks the risk is increasing, so we need to ensure restaurants are washing tanks used for tap water and this is the problem we are trying to control.”
This ‘problem’ is not a restaurant issue alone and any eventual law will also have to include residential property, said Al Bedwawi.
“We are currently building different systems to ensure water quality is continuously and routinely tested even in private villas not only government controlled establishments. Along with that all villa owners, say you rent, the owner should be testing the water as part of the contract. At the moment this is not in your [tenancy] contract, but in the future, by law, it has to be there.”
The Dubai International Food Safety Conference is a three-day event that kicked off on Monday under the theme of global partnerships.
Is it safe to drink tap water in Dubai?
Official statements from the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) have previously stated that “Our water quality across the generation, transmission and distribution networks meets the highest health and safety standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is the responsibility of the customer or owner and the maintenance companies to carry out regular maintenance of the internal networks and water tanks after the metre and to ensure that health and safety standards are met.”
Habiba Al Marashi, chairperson of the Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) has also previously said, “It is important we tackle the misconception that tap water is not fit for human consumption. We need to educate people and build awareness in order to reduce reliance on bottled water.”