I tried Googling " ˜proverb' ˜water is water,' " and, while I did find English translations of Arabic, I did not find any comparable idioms in English. They usually said, "After great effort, he explained that water is water." I don't think that an American English speaker could understand this without an explanation.
The closest thing in English that I've been able to think of is "now we're back where we started":
This is not a proverb, and it does not have the meaning that you described. I believe that the connotation is either negative or neutral, depending on the context. As for its denotation, it means that, for better or worse, after having failed or after having done things differently, we are now either at the beginning again, or we are doing things the way that we used to do them. When it's said in exasperation, after failing to accomplish something, I think that the meaning is similar to yours, but it is not the same.
I hope that this was helpful. If it wasn't, I guess I explained that water is water. ;-)
This is a very nice saying in Arabic. If it means that someone tries to explain something, yet can't, can't add any information to what water is, for example, we don't have this saying in English.
"Reinventing the wheel" is not the same. "Reinventing the wheel" means to invent something that has already been invented. Perhaps the inventor doesn't know that the item has already been invented.
I thought of something that might be close: "Back to square one." Do you know this expression? It means that you have to start all over again and that you haven't made any progress in solving a problem.
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