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Turning on the tap: Saudi continues efforts to transform the water sector

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In a further effort by the Kingdom to secure its water supply and combat wastage, a deal has been struck between Saudi Arabia’s National Water Co. (NWC) and a French-Filipino consortium worth over USD$52 million (SAR198million).

As water resources become progressively scarce globally, governments across the Gulf region are re-evaluating their current methods and adopting new strategies for balancing population growth with the growing demand for freshwater against their current water resources.

Most of the Arabian Peninsula’s natural water resources come from rainfall. However, rainfall in the Kingdom, especially in the center of the country, is significantly lower in comparison to neighboring states in the region. By virtue of its economic strength, the Kingdom has up until now has been able to leverage its wealth to address any challenges arising from water shortages.

After the United States and Canada, Saudi Arabia is the third biggest consumer of water per capita in the world. As part of its Vision 2030 program, the Kingdom has implemented a number of policies with the aim of reducing consumption by 24% by the end of this year and by up to 43% by the end of the decade.

One such effort to transform the water sector in the Kingdom saw Spanish firm Acciona recently complete the construction of one of the largest desalination plants in the country. The Al-Khobar I desalination plant, located about 400km from Riyadh, produces 210,000 cubic meters of drinking water per day, which will supply a population of 350,000.

Desalination is not the only way that the Kingdom is looking to address the issue of water scarcity. The Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture has developed a comprehensive water strategy, which integrates national water sector trends, policies, legislation and practices.

Efforts are underway in the Kingdoms south-west region to rehabilitate agricultural terraces and further develop rainwater harvesting methods. A 2,500 hectare area covering Taif and Jazan has seen dams erected and irrigation systems installed in order to increase the efficiency of usage.

In line with the core objectives of Vision 2030, the new contract issued by the Saudi National Water Co ensures that the well-being and quality of services provided to the Kingdom’s citizens is paramount. Lasting for a period of seven years, the scheme will include the treatment and provision of water services in the Kingdom’s Medina and Tabuk regions.

The wide-ranging agreement will see a multinational team of experts working alongside Saudi counterparts to raise operational efficiency, improve network management and contribute to maintaining the sustainability of resources for generations to come.

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