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Saudi water reforms to hand Kingdom’s economy a head start as global supply problems increase

RIYADH: Reforms to Saudi Arabia’s water sector are set to give the Kingdom a “competitive advantage” over other countries which face supply problems, according to a new analysis by the Saline Water Conversion Corp..

The report from the organization highlights how Saudi Arabia — one of the most water-stressed countries in the world — is taking a range of measures to ensure its water security as a foundation to achieve the socioeconomic transformation targeted in the Vision 2030 plan.

The actions include reducing water demand by optimizing use in agricultural production, increasing water supplies by increasing desalination and storage capacity, and improving the resilience of the water system by boosting transmission and interlinkage projects.

SWCC notes that at least 112 countries are facing high or even extreme water stress entirely or in parts of their territory, with countries in the Middle East and North Africa, among the hardest hit.

“With increasing water stress across the world, water will soon emerge as a key limiting factor to socioeconomic development, giving countries that have invested in creating a water-resilient system a competitive advantage,” the report said.

As Saudi Arabia has limited natural water sources, with most of its total water supply sourced from non-renewable groundwater, the Kingdom is ramping up investment in desalination plants and strategic storage.

“SWCC is investing in increasing its capacity to desalinate, transmit, and store water to meet increasing demand and further enhance water supply security. Today, Saudi Arabia can store 21 million cubic meters, which is equivalent to 2.2 days of current municipal water demand,” said the report.

The analysis further pointed out that projects are ongoing in the Kingdom to expand storage capacity by 14 percent, and the expansion of a further 225 percent is planned to reach seven days of strategic storage by 2030.

The Kingdom is also planning to increase desalination capacity by an additional 17.4 percent by 2030.

Saudi Arabia is also reducing water demand by optimizing water usage in agricultural production.

In the past, farmers in Saudi Arabia who primarily cultivate wheat mostly relied on non-renewable groundwater, which ultimately resulted in its depletion.

To combat this, it was decided to change the policy and phase out the production of water-intensive crops – such as wheat and alfalfa – between 2008 and 2016, said SWCC in its report.

The Kingdom also aims to increase treated wastewater and reuse it for irrigation.

“Vision 2030 targets achieving 100 percent treated wastewater, of which 70 percent will be reused. In 2021, 86 percent of wastewater is being treated, and 26.12 percent is being reused,” SWCC said in the report.

The full report can be read here.

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