Water filters offer alternative for those who won’t drink from the tap or plastic bottles

For those who don’t like their water from plastic bottles – because of the taste or the environmental effects – and can’t quite bring themselves to trust the stuff from their kitchen taps, water filters provide a potable alternative.

If the idea of drinking from plastic leaves a bad taste in your mouth but you are not convinced of the quality of your tap water, there is a range of filtering options on the market.

James Day, director of Dubai home maintenance company Hitches and Glitches, estimates there up to 40 different types of filters available in the UAE, “all of which purport to be doing a particular job”.

“These may include cartridge filters, carbon filters, ceramic filters, and units that use ultraviolet light to kill bacteria,” Mr. Day says.

So how do you know which one to pick?

Tatiana Antonelli Abella, whose environmental group Goumbook last year launched the “Drop It” campaign urging people to switch to filtered tap water, says you should first test the quality of your tap water.

There is a range of home testing kits on the market, such as the Watersafe Drinking Water Test Kit (Dh159) which tests for bacteria and lead, but Ms Abella recommends bringing in professionals.

Hitches and Glitches is one company that provides water testing.

“For Dh300, we send a laboratory technician to take a water sample and we’ll give you our recommendations based on that,” Mr Day says.

“But you have to bear in mind that if you were to do a single test one day, it may not be representative of the water the following day.”

The UAE has tough standards in place but the quality of the tap water varies depending on treatment at the desalination plants in your emirate.

“Your water quality also depends on the condition of the pipeline from the mains supply, the maintenance of water tanks, and the pipes where you live” Ms Abella says.

“It is possible that old pipes leach contaminants like lead, iron and copper, and poorly maintained water tanks harbour bacteria that can contaminate the water.”

Mr Day says that although a water filter will probably filter out chemicals and some dust, it is unlikely they would catch all of the bacteriological contaminants.

He says water tanks should be cleaned at least twice a year.

“We’ve removed shoes, plastic bags with food, geckos, insects. Dead pigeons are quite common if the tank lid is missing, because they perch over the rim of the tank and try to drink the water.

“The customer only realises this has happened when their water starts to smell.”

After your water has been tested, a filter supplier can recommend the most appropriate product, Ms Abella says.

Mr Day recommends buying a known brand that is approved by your municipality.

“If someone knocks on the door trying to sell you a filter, stay away from them. Go to a company that has a trade licence.”

Carbon filter systems, the most commonly used in the UAE, can range in effectiveness. The best ones remove chlorine and a wide range of contaminants such as lead, mercury and asbestos.

Most models filter water in a smaller tap in the kitchen sink, rather than at the mains. But whole-house models that treat the water at the mains are also available.

Ms Abella says water filters can be taken with you when you move, so the initial cost is worth it.

“My basic Dh950 Liquid of Life filter has been with me for six years, and I took it from my old apartment to my current villa,” she says.

“Every year I have to change the carbon filter inside, which is Dh500. I used to spend Dh2,000 to Dh3,000 a year on bottled water, so I’m definitely saving money.”

Mr Day highlights the importance of keeping up the filter maintenance.

“You have to be conscious of the fact that if you put a filter in a supply line and don’t maintain it, it’s basically a dirty sponge,” he says.

“I’ve seen many water coolers, particularly roadside ones for passers-by, which were installed with good intentions but the owner doesn’t change the filter. The water is contaminated, having passed through a filter that’s green with mold.”

There are also pitchers, such as German company Brita’s water filter jugs, which use activated carbon produced by coconut shells and ion-exchanged resin to filter the water (Dh166, plus Dh154 for a year’s supply of six filters).

Brita claims that their filters remove 99 per cent of chlorine and heavy metals such as lead and copper.

Dubai resident John Taylor says using a Brita pitcher suits his lifestyle.

“As there’s only me in my flat and I don’t drink too much water, I don’t have to constantly keep refilling the pitcher,” says Mr Taylor, an American. “But I can see how it wouldn’t suit a large family so well.

“I like that I can actually see the water being filtered. And it’s convenient, there’s no complicated set-up.”

Zubair Safdar, who was head of procurements and contracts in a desalination plant has used a ceramic water filter by Doulton for the past 10 years.

“There are other brands available but we have not had any problems using this filter. We use it for all our drinking and cooking water,” he says.

“The piped water in Abu Dhabi is very good and this type of filter ensures any impurities that the water tank, pipes, et cetera, is filtered in the natural way.

“The filter system costs about Dh300 and the ceramic candles that can be cleaned or replaced cost Dh30.”

For homeowners, Ms Abella recommends the Quooker, a high-end Dutch brand that provides a tap which immediately dispenses filtered boiling and chilled water – still or sparkling.

“We offer boiling water directly from the tap, so you are 100 per cent sure that the water is sterilised,” says Louise Thygesen, a managing partner. It costs Dh5,590, plus Dh950 for the filter and Dh600 for installation.

Zip Water Middle East provides a similar water filtering service.

Another type of water filter at the top of the range is the Dh15,000 Kangen Water, from the Japanese company Enagic, which filters your water and produces ionised alkaline and acidic water through electrolysis.

They are said to hold a wide range of health benefits. Bill Gates and Donald Trump use it.

A cheaper alternative without the “healing” properties is a reverse-osmosis water filter that fits on to your tap and can be installed yourself.

British Abu Dhabi resident Andrew Rathbone uses a six-stage reverse osmosis filter by Pure Water Products, which cost Dh450. He also tests his water regularly to make sure the filter is working.

“It’s by far a much better drinking quality,” he says. “When I test the water and compare it with the reading from a reputable French mineral water brand, my readings are lower.”

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