Desalinated drinking water in the GCC countries – The need to address consumer perceptions

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Abstract

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries consist of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. These countries depend mainly on seawater desalination to meet their water needs. Although great emphasis is given to characterize desalinated water for its physicochemical and microbial properties, e.g. presence of metals, other organic contaminants and for bacteria, sensorial characteristics including smell, taste and color have not received the same attention. This is possibly attributed to the fact that inhabitants of GCC States do not use desalinated tap water for drinking consumption, rather they depend on locally produced or imported bottled water where color, taste and odor are not problematic. To address the consumer needs and perceptions of drinking desalinated water in GCC countries, water quality standards and guidelines, should respond to the public concern about other sensorial characteristics (organoleptic properties) including taste, odor, and trigeminal sensations. Often the root causes of color and smell in water are attributed to the presence of organic and inorganic contaminants and to bacterial growth which is frequently accompanied by the production of metabolites and byproducts that are obnoxious. The unpleasant sensorial problems associated with desalinated drinking tap water may constitute the driving force for most people in GCC countries to depend on bottled water. To encourage people in the GCC countries to consume desalinated tap water, it is essential that water testing include measurements of physicochemical properties, biofilm presence and organoleptic parameters to improve overall water quality. This review highlights the contribution of organoleptics for consumers of desalinated tap water. It extends water quality research to be addressed by standards for organoleptic parameters in desalinated drinking water. Accordingly, consumer awareness and outreach campaigns should be implemented to encourage people to drink tap water in the GCC countries.

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