“Construction and materials prices in the GCC have risen, so there was a need to update the project’s budget and reassess its feasibility,” says the source.

A feasibility study by France’s Sogreah originally proposed the construction of three supranational desalination plants in Sohar, Oman, Sila in the western part of the UAE and Al-Khafji in the Divided Zone, between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The number of GCC plants supplying drinking water to the network is likely to be reduced. Instead of the supranational plants acting as the only source of back-up, in case of a shortage of drinking water, national plants will provide joint back-up.

“If one country has a problem, it will have backup from the GCC plants and from other plants in other states,” says the source.

Individual countries may not want to share their water resources because water is scarce in the region. “The amount of water transferred will not cause any shortage,” says the source. “It will only come from their strategic storage and production.”

The $3.86bn project also involves the construction of a 1,324-kilometre water pipeline from Sohar to Al-Khafji. In emergencies, it will allow national water authorities to obtain 25 per cent of their daily drinking water from the grid (MEED 15:12:06).