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  • Water usage: What is drinking water in this country used for? How much does every person use per day?
  • Projects: What projects regarding drinking water (supply or demand management) are planned, on-going or completed in this country?
  • Opportunities and threats: What are the biggest problems facing this country in the future? What is being done to solve them?
  • Norms and regulations: How is drinking water regulated? Are there efficiency standards for water-using appliances?
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Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is a very arid country with little rainfall and no permanent freshwater sources such as rivers or lakes. Instead, there are four main types of water sources:
  1. Surface water (dams)
  2. Groundwater (deep aquifer mining)
  3. Desalination – more than three million cubic metres per day 1
  4. Reclaimed water
Three quarters of Saudi Arabia's freshwater comes from non-renewable groundwater 2. Aquifers are currently being mined at an unsustainable rate 3. As a result, the water quality deteriorates.

Saudi Arabia is the world's largest producer of desalinated water, operating 32 plants and producing 18 per cent of worldwide output 4.

The world's largest desalination plant, Ras al-Khair, started production in April 2014. It will be capable of producing more than 1 billion cubic meters of desalinated water per day once it's fully operational. The water will then be pumped to Riyahd and the Hafr Al-Batin region 5.


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Does the country have plenty of drinking water or is it scarce?

Availability

Saudi Arabia suffers from severe water shortages. This is illustrated by the fact that it has one of the lowest rates of renewable internal freshwater resources per person, at just 86 cubic metres in 2011 1. Any value below 1,000 cubic metres per person is classed as water scarcity.

In 2006, total annual water withdrawal per person was 928 cubic metres 2.


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How widespread is access to safe drinking water and sanitation? What condition are pipes and sewers in?

Infrastructure

WHO estimates that in 2011 access to an improved water source was at 97 per cent, and access to sanitation at 100 per cent in Saudi Arabia 1.

Some cities, among them the capital Riyadh, receive their drinking water by pipelines from coastal areas. The water is pumped over distances of several hundred kilometres.

Many cities do not have a continuous supply of water, instead relying on deliveries to households by truck and storing water in tanks for later use.

Leakage rate is around 35 per cent in Saudi Arabia 2.

The governmental Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) is responsible for running Saudi Arabia's desalination plants.

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What is drinking water in this country used for? How much does every person use per day?

Water usage

At approximately 88 per cent of withdrawn water, agriculture is by far the largest water user in Saudi Arabia 1. Average daily water use for domestic purposes is estimated at 250 litres per person 2.

Low water tariffs
Water tariffs in Saudi Arabia offer little incentive for water conservation. They are among the lowest in the world, with prices starting at approximately US$ 0.027 per cubic metre for the lowest use category 3. Water is heavily subsidised by the Saudi government: cost recovery is estimated at around 2 per cent 4. Not only does this encourage unsustainable water use, it also stifles innovation in the field of developing water-efficient systems 5.

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What projects regarding drinking water (supply or demand management) are planned, on-going or completed in this country?

Projects

There are many projects underway to increase Saudi Arabia’s freshwater supply, e.g. by building ever-larger desalination plants.
More pipelines are also being built to pump water from coastal desalination plants to the cities.
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What are the biggest problems facing this country in the future? What is being done to solve them?

Opportunities and Threats

As in many other countries, population growth and urbanisation are expected to drive ever higher demand for water in Saudi Arabia. Critics have pointed out that government should shift its priorities from extending water supplies to curbing demand 1.

Water subsidies could overwhelm national finances
One means to this end could be to increase water tariffs and thus incentivise more efficient use of water while achieving higher cost recovery for supplying drinking water 2. Experts have warned that if subsidies for water and energy continue at their current rate, the Saudi Arabian government may be unable to pay for them by 2025 3.


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Authors

13:59, 06 May 2014watersaving.comSwitzerland
17:06, 11 Dec 2013watersaving.comSwitzerland
17:06, 11 Dec 2013watersaving.comSwitzerland
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