Fresh water supply in Saudi Arabia

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The ability of water sources to produce fresh water for supply is dwindling worldwide. Water shortages derail economic and social development especially in arid and semi-arid regions of the world, which includes Saudi Arabia. Arid regions face the problem of fresh water shortage generated from lakes, rivers and even from underground aquifers across the world. The situation is becoming worse due to the ever increasing human population and industrialization. The few available sources of fresh water are also increasingly becoming salty because of aquifer disturbances caused by humans; this is why water from seas and underground sources are being desalinized to cater for the supply of fresh water. According to Buytaert, Friesen, Liebe & Ludwig, (2012) there is the need to come up with methods and techniques that will assure the continuous supply of fresh water for human consumption and use.

Fig 1: fresh water is becoming scarce worldwide.

Saudi Arabia lacks permanent rivers or lakes and receives very little rainfall. Water is therefore in short of supply and of great value in that case. Innovation is the only way through which the country can produce enough water for both domestic and industrial use. So what are the techniques used to ensure the supply of fresh water in Saudi Arabia? What is their feasibility?

Drilling ground water

The major source of fresh water in Saudi Arabia is Aquifers. During the 1970s, the Saudi government made an effort to locate these aquifers and drill as many deep tube wells as possible. Drilling surface water is common in other arid regions of the world too. The main goal of drilling boreholes is to harvest ground water. The advantage of this particular technique is that a part from the initial costs, there are no additional maintenance costs, making it a viable technique. Moreover, treatment costs become eliminated since drilled water is naturally pure and safe. However, open boreholes are vulnerable to contamination that can result into the outbreak of water-borne diseases, (Ouda, Shawesh, Al-Olabi, Younes & Al-Waked, 2013). This is no permanent problem nevertheless; it can be averted through solutions like purification pills. Another concern is that drilled water is likely to be salty. This problem can be dealt with using very cheap methods such as chemical treatment and boiling. Drilling technique to acquire fresh water is evidently cheap making this technique very viable (Gandhidasan & Abualhamayel, 2011).

Recycling of municipal waste water

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recycles 40% of the water already used for domestic and industrial purposes. Some of the places in which recycling plants have been built include Jeddah and Riyadh. Municipal waste water includes sewage that contains even human waste. This water can be treated to give out freshwater that which is good for human consumption, (Farid, 1975). Biological water treatment plants are used in the procedure of recycling municipal waste water. This technique of acquiring fresh water has a major challenge that is convincing citizens that the treated water is totally safe for consumption and other domestic uses, (Buytaert, Friesen, Liebe & Ludwig, 2012). Apart from the initial set up of biological treatment plant, recycling waste water does not require huge financial inputs making this particular technique economical for Saudi Arabia. Administrative drawbacks also pose a challenge to the process of recycling water. These include; ensuring that people with the rights skills get to manage such plants and poor decision making in regard to awarding installation and management tenders. However, with a competitive administration, such challenges can be easily overcome. This technique can therefore be considered to be a great technique when it comes to proving Saudi Arabia with fresh water.

Desalination

Saudi is the number one world producer of desalinated water. The Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) runs about twenty-seven stations that produce an estimated 3 million cubic meters of fresh water per day.

Desalinating involves converting salty sea water into fresh drinking water through distillation. This is one of the oldest and widely recognized techniques, The National Academy of Sciences (2001). The procedure also removes a number of other contaminants from the water, ('Micro-scale desalination in Saudi Arabia', 1996). Installation of desalinization plants in Saudi Arabia has definitely contributed to the easing of freshwater demand and enhancing economic growth in the country. Desalination procedure requires technical skills in establishing and maintaining a desalination plant, maintenance costs and treatment of the water. Since the desalination technique of accessing and providing freshwater to the citizens of Saudi Arabia has contributed to the countrys economic growth, the technique is exclusively viable.

Fig 2: questionnaire on public awareness on the sources of water in Saudi Arabia.

Conclusion

As we have learnt from this text; recycling, desalinating and drilling are the three ways through which Saudi Arabia gets her fresh water. It is also imperative to note that water from ground aquifers is the major source of water in that particular country. It is, therefore, important that the country uses this resource sustainably to avoid depletion of ground water.

References

Baba, A., Howard, K., & Gunduz, O. (2006). Groundwater and ecosystems. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

Buytaert, W., Friesen, J., Liebe, J., & Ludwig, R. (2012). Assessment and Management of Water Resources in Developing, Semi-arid and Arid Regions. Water Resour Manage, 26(4), 841-844. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11269-012-9994-3

Farid, M. (1975). More Water for Arid Lands: Promising Technologies and Research Opportunities. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.: 153 pp., 77 figs, 73 A 15 A 0.8 cm, US $2.50 (stiff paper covers), 1974. Envir. Conserv., 2(03), 239. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/s0376892900001612

Gandhidasan, P., & Abualhamayel, H. (2011). Exploring Fog Water Harvesting Potential and Quality in the Asir Region, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Pure And Applied Geophysics, 169(5-6), 1019-1036. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00024-011-0341-z

Micro-scale desalination in Saudi Arabia. (1996). Filtration & Separation, 33(9), 801-803. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0015-1882(97)84346-7

Ouda, O., Shawesh, A., Al-Olabi, T., Younes, F., & Al-Waked, R. (2013). Review of domestic water conservation practices in Saudi Arabia. Appl Water Sci, 3(4), 689-699. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13201-013-0106-1

 

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