Dubai restaurants must offer tap water to customers from 2020

Municipality's new rule aims to give diners more choice and cut down on plastic waste

Tatiana Antonelli Abella, Founder of Goumbook, who runs a Ôsay no to plastic bottlesÕ campaign pours tap filtered water for her son, Lorenzo.
Photo: Reem Mohammed / The National (Reporter: Jessica Hill / Section: NA) ID  70767 *** Local Caption ***  RM_20170110_WATER_001.JPG

Hotels and restaurants in Dubai will have to offer customers filtered tap water as an alternative to bottled drinking water from next year.

The move aims to cut down on plastic waste and give money-conscious diners more choice.

The new regulations were set out in the updated Dubai Food Code, which will be released by Dubai Municipality in 2020.

“From next year, whenever you visit a hotel or restaurant, you can select whether to have bottled water or filtered tap water,” Amal Albedwawi, head of the drinking water control unit at Dubai Municipality, said on Monday.

This is the first time tap-water regulations have been introduced to the code. It will be at the discretion of restaurants if they charge customers for the filtered water or not.

“In most places around the world tap water is not chargeable, so if it’s not a global trend I don’t think it will be sold here either," Ms Albedwawi said.

“But we have not set any specific rules around this as yet."


While the inclusion of tap water on restaurant menus is "not part of a federal law yet", it is hoped the new rules could ultimately become law.

Food outlets across the city were advised to fit filters or make provisions for filtered water stock soon , for the smooth implementation.

In some parts of the UK, such a law already exists. All licensed premises in England and Wales are required to provide free potable water to customers upon request. And in Scotland a similar law specifies that tap water fit for drinking should be offered for free if ordered.

The concept of free tap water at restaurants and cafes has not fully caught on in the UAE. While some outlets have been serving straight-from-the-tap alternatives for a few years now, others still opt for the still or sparkling meal opener.

But Ms Albedwawi said the updated guidelines are out to change that and could "drastically reduce plastic consumption in the UAE".

This year, Tryp by Wyndham Hotel in Dubai launched its own filtered water system. Swapping its plastic bottles for reusable glass, the hotel is expected to save more than 306,000 bottles from going to landfill every year.

In addition to restaurants and hotels, landlords and homeowners will soon have to to ensure tap water is safe to drink too.

"We are working on a new system where a routine test will be carried out by Dubai Municipality to analyse tap water in private houses," Ms Albedwawi said.

"Along with that, homeowners and landlords will be required to regularly test tap water for tenants and it will be written into the rental contract."

The Dubai Food Code, which first launched in 2013, acts as a guide to ensure the safe production and distribution of food and drinks consumed within the emirate.

It addresses a number of issues related to health and safety, including the handling and processing of food and preventing contamination.