There are several articles and videos on the net claiming that the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai is not connected to a wastewater treatment plant by a sewer system, but that instead the sewage is transported away using trucks. Examples:

Is this claim true?

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    If 4 different, independent websites claim the same thing, what will convince you it is true? How many more links will it take? And if a website claims otherwise, why will you believe that one?
    – hdhondt
    Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 10:22
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    @hdhondt: good question. It's just that a) the claim seems kinda unbelievable to me (who would spend lots of money and effort on an enormous skyscraper but not build a sewer system for it?), and b) I don't know whether these websites are reliable on this fact - maybe they have just copied from the same source, and maybe even omitted some key details (all of these articles are quite short, in my opinion).
    – oliver
    Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 10:30
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    The wikipedia page says nothing about the Burj Khalifa, which has been connected to the municipal sewer system from day one. Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 12:33
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    @hdhondt: The number of references that a "fact" has on the Internet is not a reliable indicator of veracity. Numerous news media outlets and web sites routinely cite each other's source material without doing a fact check. Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 19:13
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    @hdhondt This is the citogenesis problem. You have no guarantee that those 4 (or really, N) websites have collectively made more than one independent primary research on the topic. This is true regardless of the "mainsteam reliability" of a news source.
    – Kafein
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 13:20

2 Answers 2


This story has an inkling of truth, but the specific claim raised in the title of the question is false. The one link in the question that is correct (or at least was correct in 2015) is the link to the Wikipedia page, which does not mention the Burj Khalifa. Sewage from the Burj Khalifa is not transported away by trucks.

From Mechanical and Electrical Systems for the Tallest Building/Man- Made Structure in the World: A Burj Dubai Case Study

A complete soil, waste and vent system from plumbing fixtures, floor drains and mechanical equipment arranged for gravity flow and, ejector discharge to a point of connection with the city municipal sewer is provided. A complete storm drainage system from roofs, decks, terraces and plazas arranged for gravity flow to a point of connection with the city municipal sewer system is provided.

This story about the Burj Khalifa not being connected to the municipal sewage system got its start in a 2011 book by Kate Ascher, The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper. In 2011, Terry Gross interviewed Kate Ascher for an episode of NPR's Fresh Air. They talked about skyscrapers in general, about the Burj Khalifa, and then about Dubai's treatment of human waste:

GROSS: Right. So you know, you write that in Dubai they don't have like, a sewage infrastructure to support high-rises like this one. So what do they do with the sewage?

ASCHER: A variety of buildings there [Dubai]; some can access a municipal system, but many of them actually use trucks to take the sewage out of individual buildings. And then they wait on a queue to put it into a wastewater treatment plant. So it's a fairly primitive system.

Note that Ascher did not claim in this interview whether the Burj Khalafa was or was not connected to the municipal sewer system. Apparently the specific claim started with a BoingBoing article written the very next day in a poorly researched article Gizmodo next used the BoingBoing article as the source for its poorly researched article.

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    Wow, thanks for looking up where that wrong information came from! Your explanation makes a lot of sense to me.
    – oliver
    Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 13:59
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    Ascher did actually give that impression, or at absolute minimum fail to correct Gross incorrectly claiming it, per the NPR transcript. "ASCHER: The tallest building in the world is... the Burj Khalifa... GROSS: GROSS: Right. So you know, you write that in Dubai they don't have like, a sewage infrastructure to support high-rises like this one..." Anyone reading/hearing that would make the same inference.
    – smci
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 1:19
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    @smci That certainly is a possibility. Ascher published her book in 2011, which meant the reporting on a 2009 incident in Dubai was still on her mind. Problems in one of Dubai's sewage treatment plants resulted in that plant being shut down for a few weeks. Some of that reporting implied that the vacuum truck solution used during those few weeks was what Dubai used all the time. Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 3:48
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    Relevant XKCD: xkcd.com/978
    – nick012000
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 5:35
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    Which sounds absurd, but then building a nearly 1 km-tall tower also sounds absurd. My point was that dismissing the claim as "ridiculous on the face of it" because it assumes regular servicing is not necessarily the slam-dunk that the other poster intuited it to be.
    – Sneftel
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 11:58

All statements seem to be true to some extent:

  1. The City did and still does have a sewer system and at least one major plant to treat it
  2. There has been outage at the plant at some point but such outages are temporary
  3. The plants (large and small) did not have sufficient capacity to treat the output of the city for a long period of time even when working without issues (which is still the case in 2021)
  4. The processing plants will have sufficient capacity to treat all the output by 2025 in theory thanks to new major investments
  5. The Burj Khalifa HAS access to the sewer system
  6. Due to the processing plant not being able to handle the load AND the Burj Khalifa as well as other new buildings going live, some parts of the system seemed to have been disconnected from the processing plant and the trucks introduced to take the excess output into another plant which also filled up its capacity though hence the long line of trucks. NOTE: poop is not stated to be transported from such buildings directly via trucks but instead parts of the network seem to have been disconnected (or not connected at all to a processing plant) and pumps used in several locations to get the output into the trucks.
  7. It is not explicitly stated if the Burj Khalifa output is ending up on the trucks but since it was one of the major contributors of the overload it can be assumed with relatively high certainty that it has been so for several years. Still it would be possible that the building has been connected to the plant at the expense of other existing buildings, or the plant getting smaller updates to its capacity allowing this particular building to be connected shortly after going live

This the assumption of the particular building not being connected directly to a plant and its output being trucked away seems to be have been likely correct but not explicitly confirmed and might have also changed at any time after the building has gone live

A lot of these statements are confirmed in the Wikipedia page itself. This video seems like a good summary with further links to sources:

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