Where is all Dubai’s Local Water?

Recently Geordie Armani posted a very interesting piece regarding the price of water in the UAE; it is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, so I thought I’d throw my two fils in.

For those of you who don’t know, in Dubai – and of course the rest of the UAE – we don’t drink the tap water, it won’t kill us if we do but it’s not the best stuff you’ll ever taste. This means all of our water comes in bottles, big ones, little ones, really little ones…you can have it delivered to your door, buy it in bulk or buy bottles as you go and almost everywhere sells it.

For such a small country the UAE has an impressive number of water suppliers from the big names like Masafi, Oasis, Al Ain, Arwa, Aquafina (though global the UAE water is desalinated and bottled here) and the relatively new comer, Mai Dubai, to other lesser known brands that occasionally appear on your table or in the fridge of a friend. You don’t question the brand, you just drink it – sure everyone has their preferences based on sodium content, general taste and bottle shape, but at the end of the day if it’s local you drink it because it costs you next to nothing, right?

Wrong. The price of water in restaurants and at various attractions (water parks, theme parks, hotels, exhibitions, concerts) is often slapped with the plus side of a 100% mark up on the actual retail price.

Consider this: you can buy a 1.5L bottle of local water at the supermarket for around AED 1.50, however at your average restaurant you are being charged well over AED 5 for that very same bottle and sometimes as much as AED20 – why? Because they can.

Restaurant Small Bottle Large Bottle
California Pizza Kitchen AED8.00 AED15.00
SALT AED5.00 N/A
Zaatar w Zeit AED7.00 N/A
IHOP AED9.00 AED15.00
Fraiche AED5.00 AED9.00
Clinton St. Baking Company AED8.00 AED12.00
Mo’s AED7.00 AED12.00
Jone’s The Grocer AED13.00 AED18.00
Shakespeare & Co. AED7.00 AED14.00
Coffee Club AED9.00 AED12.00
Pantry Café AED10.00 AED20.00
Eggspectation AED8.00 AED15.00

These are just a handful of prices from the menus of various popular restaurants in Dubai, as you can see no one comes close to the AED 1.50 price tag of your local supermarket, and bare in mind that none of these are fine dining establishments or even located within hotels.

Then you have the mark up at events and nightclubs around the city. Event venues often charge betwen AED 5 and AED 15 for a small bottle – to cover the cost of the fancy table changes perhaps? Most clubs charge upwards of AED 15 – Rock Bottom TECOM slaps a hefty AED 20 price tag on their small bottles of water – so you are paying almost as much for water as you are for an alcoholic drink, no wonder everyone gets so drunk!

However, I can forgive the restaurants who overcharge for water when you consider that there are an awful lot of places who don’t even have it on the menu. If I order water and the waiter brings me some fancy imported bottle I get irritated, but when I ask for local and they tell me they don’t have it I see red – it’s even worse if they only have Evian, I do not drink soap, thank you, go away.

Many restaurants will argue that they only serve imported water because it fits in with their brand or it is what customers expect; I don’t buy it. If that is the case offer imported water too, but everyone should have to have local bottled water on the menu without exception. I have even heard the argument that the plastic bottles are too ugly to grace some of the table tops here – no excuse Al Ain make glass bottled water and they are pretty sleek.

The way I see it there is no excuse for a restaurant to not have local water available – in both sizes, if anything imported water should be the option and not the other way around. It’s cheaper, it’s better for the environment and it’s better for the economy so why is no one fighting for it?

All of this being said, I must congratulate restaurants like Tom & Serg where they offer filtered tap water for free – or at least they did the last time I was there – as well as bottled water, and why not. Putting a filter onto your sink and filling a few glass bottles costs little in comparison to what people are spending on your food menu, so why shouldn’t water be free, it is in the UK and US when it comes out the tap.

I think it’s about time people started kicking up a well deserved fuss, if it means walking out of your favourite restaurant because they don’t serve local then do it, if it means signing a petition or sharing the information on your social media, just do it! Visit I Drink Local for all the stats if you don’t believe me.

36 comments

  1. ‘Thanks for sharing, not all of Tom & Serg’s outlets offer tap water or local water, for example Common Grounds has NO local water. Shocking for a local home grown brand.

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  2. It’s been going around social media for a bit hasn’t it. Kris Fade brought this up on his show as well not too long ago and I’m glad people are kicking a fuss because it’s been annoying us (and a lot of other bloggers/everyone else in Dubai!). I was thinking about it the other day why don’t we share it on twitter everytime we come across an overpriced bottle of water – i.e Voss only served @”restaurant twitter handle”, for 25AED #localwaterplease @idrinklocal. Then if it gets retweeted x number of times, maybe the restaurant will think of introducing local water for something reasonable! I’ve given up and started bringing our own water to most restaurants now – kinda helpful that we have a little one so we bring everything in the pram ha ha. Good on ya to do a write-up on it.

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    • I’m not sure to be honest, I don’t listen to Kris Fade’s show but in 25 years here I’ve seen the price of water go from normal to absolutely ridiculous and it’s just obscene. I think my biggest annoyance is in nightclubs when you’ve been dancing and all you want is a water and you have to pay 20-30dhs just for a bottle! There better be diamonds in my water for that! I totally agree with the Twitter thing – let’s start something!!!

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  3. I haven’t heard about this but wow. I can only image how frustrating it must be at a nightclub to have to pay for over priced water just to stay hydrated while consuming alcohol. And I also feel like those restaurants are totally taking advantage. Forget about the brand, people need water…

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  4. It feels so strange that in other places that they don’t allow water in other places or that they don’t have it available. It’s available just about anywhere around here when you are going out for food.

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    • You can get water everywhere just not always local water, but most of the time even the local stuff is incredibly over priced. The shops are cheap it’s just restaurants that charge a bomb

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    • The tap water here is all desalinated so it’s incredibly high in sodium and not a great idea to drink long term so it’s bottles all the way unfortunately. But you can filter the tap water which not enough people do! I got charged AED 40 the other night for 500ml. I nearly had a heart attack and told them to keep it, just grabbed a bottle from the petrol station on the way home for 1.50!

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  5. i 100% agree with you – i was so annoyed that i have probably told a lot of people about this so it is good info… i always suggest to use super markets for things like that -and i have sent so much water back in the past when i order it and they give me some super expensive bottled water they wanna charge for 20 dirhams so i expect it to be water from the heavens with vitamins that gives me super human strength!! but il be going to dubai maybe sept or oct so il check out what other posts you have!

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    • It’s not really to do with the tourism it’s just because the law is not enforced venues can get away with charging what they want. A lot of the restaurants that are off the tourist track do exactly the same thing.

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    • I’m not a huge tapwater fan when I’m in the U.K. but I think it’s just because my grandparents live in the south, the water tastes weird. But I’d rather have the option a least.

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  6. I live in the U.S. and am realizing just how lucky we have it. (Nearly) everywhere we go, tap water is free, and ok to drink. Darn it all to restaurants (and other venues) that take advantage of a captive audience!

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  7. Oh, that’s so sad. Although people in really need a clean water but that marked-up’s too much. Well, better bring water always with you.

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    • You can’t take your own water to restaurants here, they get very uppty about it. I always have a bottle in my bag but there’s nowhere to refill it normally. Shops are still cheap enough to buy water it’s just the f&b lot that take the mick.

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  8. I find that quite crazy that water isn’t just available so easily, it’s offered immediately you sit down over here and it’s not charged unless you want fancy sparkling water lol! I guess if you can’t drink the tap water then you can charge what you like.

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    • Water is very easily available, they will always offer you water immediately anywhere you go – they have to in this heat, but most of the time you end up with a pretty hefty bill to pay at the end! It’s ridiculous. It’s so easy to put a filter on the taps and make it drinkable but they just won’t. 😔

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  9. Wow I had no idea that you couldn’t drink the water in Dubai! That’s terrible that they charge so much for imported water, clearly they know you have no other choice than to pay for it!

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    • You can drink the tap water, it won’t kill you but you really shouldn’t, it’s all desalinated so there’s still a lot of sodium in it and it isn’t treated for drinking – but I drank it as a kid and I’m still here! The local water is cheap enough in shops, you don’t have to have the imported stuff but restaurants and clubs take the micky with their mark ups.

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  10. I honestly didn`t know about this but it is absurd to pay so much money for a bottle of water, especially when you are in the night club drinking alcohol and you need water to sat hydrated.

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    • Exactly! It’s crazy. When I lived in the U.K. for a year I was always astounded that you could get free water in the clubs but then I realized that is exactly how it should be!

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  11. Those prices are absurd! Water is a basic human necessity and we should not be paying that much. I think something must be done to regulate the prices of bottled water.

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    • There are laws in place supposedly but no one enforces them. The other day at an event they were charging AED 30 for a 1.5L bottle of water…it’s about AED 5 from the shop! Daylight robbery. But when it’s 50 degrees Celsius outside you have no choice 🤷🏼‍♀️

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