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Dubai: The UAE will have a new set of federal standards for drinking water safety by mid-2013 as the Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (ESMA) develops a comprehensive unified system, Gulf News has learnt.

The standards will cover both packaged and tap water as well as ice blocks sold in supermarkets.

“We are making sure that drinking water is conforming fully to the highest purity standards and causes no harm to people,” said Mohammad Saleh Badri, Director General of ESMA, speaking exclusively with Gulf News. “We are covering both the packaged water industry as well as tap water because a few water-supplying authorities claim that the tap water is fit for drinking so we will make sure they prove their claim.”

The new regulations are currently being ratified by ESMA’s board and a cabinet approval is expected by the end of this year.

“The regulations are ready and we are looking to enforce this across the country by mid next year,” said Badri. “Once it is implemented, we will make sure that nobody sells drinking water unless it is fully compliant with our highest safety standards.”

Currently, each emirate follows its own safety standards and packaged water is tested randomly by local civic bodies, but Badri said the new regulations will be much more comprehensive.

Importantly, Badri added, it is not just the quality of water that ESMA is concerned about but also the way it is processed at the plants, the way it is packaged, the types of material used in packaging, how it is transported and where and how it is stored, as well as the accuracy of quantity mentioned on the bottles.

One of the important aspects the new regulations will look into is the amount of bromate content in the water, which will be controlled and specified by the authority.

“There have been issues with excessive bromate content contaminating water and we don’t want that to happen so will be having stringent norms on this as well as on levels of mineral content,” Badri said.

Bromate is a chemical formed during disinfection of water and is a suspected human carcinogen.

Another key requirement for the water bottling firms is to mention the source of water on the bottles as the specifications will differ depending on where the water is derived from.

“Companies supplying water will have to mention whether the water is sourced from the ground or if it is tap water or desalinated water. We will issue separate standards of handling for each category,” said Badri.

The system even covers the heavy tankers that transport drinking water in bulk quantity, requiring them to comply with international specifications like EPI coating and rust proofing.

EPI or Ethoxylated polyethyiemine is a coating that remains uncorrosive to any kind of environment. The coating helps water in tankers from becoming contaminated from contact with materials like metal.

Apart from water processing plants the new regulation will also cover ice factories and a grace period of six months will be offered to all parties involved from the date of implementation.

Once the regulation is in place, Badri claimed that UAE will be leading the region in adopting such comprehensive water safety standards and if required, ESMA will help others to have it across the region.