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|
|Zaatar w Zeit||AED7.00||N/A|
|Clinton St. Baking Company||AED8.00||AED12.00|
|Jone’s The Grocer||AED13.00||AED18.00|
|Shakespeare & Co.||AED7.00||AED14.00|
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.