Eau la la: price of water in Dubai escapes government caps

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Water prices are getting higher and higher in Dubai as government price caps do not apply to food outlets and restaurants, only to groceries and supermarkets, reported UAE-based Gulf News.

Small water bottles can cost anything upwards of $0.30 in supermarkets but, according to a survey conducted by Gulf News, prices can range from about $3- $7 in food outlets. Soft drinks prices range from $0.30 to about $6, from supermarkets to restaurants respectively.

The high temperatures in the emirate during the summer result in increased sales of water and soft drinks. This is particularly the case when temperatures in the UAE reach record highs of over 51 degrees Celsius, as occurred in June 2008, according to Arabian Business.

Depending on the location of the dining establishment, prices vary in Dubai. Location and rent prices for businesses and the year in which the prices were issued affect the pricing calculation, ultimately influencing how much consumers pay for their bottled water.

The debate over the cost of water is not a new one; two years ago, the cost of water in the region was analyzed by Dubai-based news outlet, The National.

At that time, Dr. Hashim al-Nuaimi, the Ministry of Economy’s head of consumer protection, told the newspaper that charging any more than $1 for a bottle that costs only $0.50 in a store was regarded as “taking advantage of the consumer.”

The Ministry of Economy requires that restaurants sell local water for the same regulated price as shops; however Al Arabiya learned that British-chain Costa Coffee charges about $2 for a 500ml bottle of branded water Aquafina.

Infographic: Fluid pricing

Infographic: Fluid pricing (Design by Farwa Rizwan / Al Arabiya English)
Infographic: Fluid pricing (Design by Farwa Rizwan / Al Arabiya English)

This is a marked increase on prices in some supermarkets in Dubai, where shoppers can buy six 1.5 liter bottles of water for just under $3.

However, this pales in comparison with the price of water and soft drinks at the Ritz Carlton restaurant, Blue Jade, in Dubai. Al Arabiya learned from the hotel’s PR agent that the high-end restaurant serves half a liter of water for a cool 25 AED (about $8) and charges almost $7 for soft drinks.

In response to such pricing, a campaign was set up by a group of advertising professionals who found that they were paying over the odds for imported water in restaurants that refused to serve local options. They set up a website, that shows which restaurants offer local water. What’s more, if you know of a venue that isn’t yet pinpointed on the map, you can add it yourself.

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For those staying in Dubai this summer, temperatures are due to hit highs of 44 degrees Celsius this week, according to the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology in Abu Dhabi.

Adults need to drink between 2.5 and 3 liters per day, with children advised to drink one or more liters per day, Dr. Seyed Hamid Reza Mirnajafi from International medical group, Mediclinic, told Al Arabiya English.

Mirnajafi emphasized that the lifestyle in the Emirates involves moving from air-conditioned areas to the heat outside which results in dehydration.

“People go from their air-conditioned cars to their air-conditioned officers and when they go outside, they sweat. When they go back inside, the AC cools them, so they forget and don’t drink water,” he said.

Drinking coffee, tea and soft drinks are not an adequate replacement for water, Mirnajafi advises that these products are “diuretics and therefore won’t help to rehydrate people.”

“90% of people coming into Mediclinic suffer from some level of dehydration, to avoid this they really do need to be conscious of how much water they consume throughout the day,” he warned.

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