water crisis in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries will worsen
during the first quarter of the century with the shortage rising from
the current 15 billion cubic meters to 31 billion cubic meters by the
year 2025, a Gulf conference on water was told.
solution, according to a Saudi water expert, lies in active
involvement of the private sector and the gradual removal of state
subsidies so that enough funds could be raised to finance future
conference was opened by Qatari Minister of Municipality and
Agriculture Affairs Ali Al-Khatir, who blamed irrational consumption
for compounding the crisis. Qatar provides free water and electricity
to its citizens but charges foreign residents.
conference which opened on Saturday will last through Wednesday and is
being attended by delegates from the six member countries of the Gulf
Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates,
Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait.
Bushnak, member of the consultancy board of
the Supreme Economic Council, said reluctance of local
financing bodies, lack of proper technical and financial monitoring
and control criteria and the absence of legislation and regulations to
encourage investments in this vital sector are among the main
current consumption level which is fast depleting renewable sources,
the Kingdom needs to invest SR300 billion ($80 billion) over the next
40 years to meet growing demand.
Bushnak said the Saudi private sector has asked the government to
allow businessmen to build the third and fourth expansion phases of
Al-Shuaiba desalination plant along the Red Sea to provide an
additional 150 million gallons per day of drinking water to cities and
towns in the Makkah Province.
commissioned by the newly-established Makkah Utility Company said SR23
billion ($6.1 billion) capital investment is needed for Jeddah water
projects until the year 2020. The company is hoping to attract SR5
billion from local and foreign financiers.
Saline Water Conversion Corporation said it would build 15 new
desalination plants along the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf over the
coming years to produce 2 million cubic meters per day.
The corporation has drawn up plans to increase its desalination
capacity to 800 million gallons per day.
Al-Kawari, GCC assistant secretary-general for economic affairs,
issued a strong warning saying the GCC states which are among the
world’s poorest in water resources, continue to depend heavily on
desalination and may one day find themselves forced to import water in
large quantities. In just 15 years from 1980 to 1995 demand for water
in the GCC increased from 6 billion cubic meters to 25 billion cubic
meters. The agricultural sector continues to be the number one
consumer of underground water accounting for 85 percent of overall
said the GCC countries are currently experiencing a deficit of 15
billion cubic meters which is mainly covered by non-renewable sources.
This will rise to more than 31 billion cubic meters by the year 2025.
Desalination has become an indispensable alternative for the GCC
states, but it is a choice marred by many difficulties including
technology and economic viability.
Bushnak called for what he termed “innovative financial and
administrative solutions” to bridge the wide gap between demand and
supply. Past and present experiences, he said, have proved that
businessmen are capable of coming up with such initiatives.