Feasibility of Two Different Techniques for Providing Fresh Water in Saudi Arabia

2021-05-10 10:33:14
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Water is a basic human right as it is the most valuable resource that is indispensable in every form of life. It is used for domestic, agricultural, industrial and many other purposes. An adequate source of water that can be depended on is required for sustaining humanity and for the growth of future developments. Water is considered a necessity for an economy to grow. However, the world has been recently facing a problem of scarcity of resources for fresh water. The drought has increasingly become an important problem in the world. Many parts of the world are facing water scarcity especially the arid and the semi-arid areas which are one-third of the earths land surface ((Fletcher et al, 2012). These areas are in need of additional sources of fresh water as in the first place dont even have the sources of the fresh water like the rivers and the lakes. The arid regions have limited underground water resources which are threatened with the quality deterioration as a result of hydrological changes. There is less surface water as it is limited to flash floods which occur as due to high-intensity rainfall which occurs for a short duration. But, the water from these regions resources is increasingly becoming salty due to the distraction of from the aquifers. The report will first look at Saudi Arabia and its provision of fresh water. It will then look and analyze two fresh water provision techniques in this country which are desalination and recycling of waste water and evaluate their feasibility. Finally, the report will conclude showing that there is a need to ensure that Saudi Arabia and other arid regions have a supply of water that is constant for continuity of life.

Provision of Fresh Water in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia like the other arid areas is faced with a lot of challenges when it comes to providing fresh water. But, it also has its achievements in the same sector. It has done substantial investments to ensure that its citizens have a constant supply of fresh water. These investments include Seawater desalination, waste water and sewerage treatment and water distribution. Today, about 50% of their drinking water come from desalination (Abdullah, 2012), the other half is from other methods are mining from non-renewable groundwater, sewerage and waste water treatment among others. Most of the water that is used in the capital Riyadh is desalinated and pumped from the Persian Gulf which is 467km away. For the residential users, water is given for free. The water is provided by the government after buying it from the private sector. The private sector has been increasingly relied on to operate the water and sanitation infrastructure mostly the desalination and wastewater treatment plants. Despite the efforts in the provision of fresh water, the quality is poor in the continuity of supply. Generally, there have been great achievements in the provision of fresh water as it has increased desalination and it has expanded the wastewater treatment facilities.


Saudi Arabia has the largest desalination plant in the world. It is also the largest producer of the desalinated water. The country has about 27 desalination plants with the single largest desalination project being Ras Al-Khair. It produced 1,025,000 cubic meters of water per day in 2014. In 2011, 3.3 million cubic meters of water was produced by just the 17 plants which translate to 1.2 billion cubic meters in a year (Abdullah, 2012). 21 plants are located in the Red sea with the remaining 6 being locate in the east coast. Most of the pants use the technique called multi-stage flash distillation or MSF and others use the multi-effect distillation or the MED. Both of the MSF and MED plants are integrated with dual-purpose plants as they use steam as a source of energy from the power plants. Among the plants, 8 of them are single-purpose plants and they use a technology called the reverse osmosis or RO. The power comes from the grid. A plant called Jubail II situated on the East Coast is an MSF plant that was built in subsequent stages since the year 1983 with a water capacity of almost 950,000 cubic meters per day and it supplies Riyadh. In Yanbu on the Red Sea, the largest RO plant is located. It supplies its water capacity of 128,000 cubic meters per day to the city of Medina. Small pants are the MED plants. Jeddah and Shoaiba plants which is south of Jeddah supply Mecca (Abdullah, 2012). The largest plant of 2014, Ras Al-Khair uses OR technology.

Desalination is a process that removes minerals from saline water. It is sometimes referred to as distillation as it generally involves turning salty water into fresh water by simply removing the salt and the minerals in it. Desalination, sometimes referred to distillation, involves turning the salty sea water into fresh drinking water by removing the salt found in sea water. The sea water is desalinated to produce fresh water for consumption by the human beings.

Floating desalination is a process that occurs in Saudi Arabia. Since 2008, Desalination barged have been in operation as they meet the high seasonal demand for potable water along the Red sea. On a barge in Yanbu, there is a floating desalination plant that with a production capacity of 25,000 cubic meters of water per day. The plant would provide a city with more than 100,000 inhabitants with clean drinking water. Additionally, there are plans to commission a solar desalination plant which would be ten times large.

Sewerage and Wastewater treatment

In Saudi Arabia, it is estimated that the total municipal water use is 2.28 cubic kilometers per day. The waste water being produced is almost equal to the amount being supplied. The waste water can be treated under a particular specification to produce fresh water for human use. But, the water can be put to good use by recycling. There are 33 sewerage and wastewater recycling plants in Saudi Arabia. One of them is WABAG which has been recycling water and providing a sustainable solution for a wastewater treatment plant. They also want to provide a treatment plant that will be treating the wastewater from the Al Kharj industrial park. 15 others are under construction to meet the ever growing supply of waste water. Recycling of water takes place in biological water treatment plants. They hold a capacity of 748 million cubic meters per day. They treat the water and then supply it back. The treated water is used for green spaces in the cities mostly for landscaping (World Bank, 2005). The water is also being used for irrigation in the agricultural sector and other uses. Trucks collect the concentered sewage in the septic tanks. The sewage is then taken to the treatment plants where it is treated and resupplied. Recycling municipal water is both safe and economical as it does not require enormous financing except at the initial stages of setting up the waste treatment plant.

Additionally, in Saudi Arabia, people are being encouraged to employ water recycling techniques. Both at the level of cities and buildings. For instance, the ablution water in the mosques is being put to good use by using the same water to flush toilets. At the city level, the treated water is being used in industries and in irrigation. According to World Bank report, 50 million cubic meters per year supply of water by Riyadh is treated after use and pumped for irrigation of wheat, orchards, and fodder and palm trees (2005).


The two techniques desalination and sewerage and waste water treatment for the provision of fresh water are the most feasible in supplying fresh water in Saudi Arabia and also in other semi-arid areas. However, due to the increasing demand for fresh water and concerns posed by the change in climate, the government of Saudi Arabia needs to recognize that there is a need to increase the capacity of water supply by either increasing and improving their current techniques or advancing in other alternatives. Generally, desalination has emerged as the best and most effective method of fresh water provision in Saudi Arabia because it supplies a lot of water to the country although it requires a lot of technological skills and a lot of labor to implement. Sewerage and waste water treatment is better as it is economical. Therefore, both methods are feasible and they can guarantee a sustainable supply of fresh water in Saudi Arabia.


Dr. Abdullah Al-AL Shaikh. "Seawater Desalination in Saudi Arabia: An Overview". International Conference on Desalination and Sustainability, Casablanca, 12 March 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2013.

Fletcher, C., Matthews, B., Espinosa, T., Henstock, C., Walsh, C., McNair, A., & Smallwood, I. Skills study 2 for level 2 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (2012).

World Bank: A Water Sector Assessment Report on the Countries of the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf, 2005, p. 17

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