With a rapidly growing population and increasing demand for water from both the industrial and agricultural sectors, the kingdom sees water reuse – along with desalination – as key to meeting rising water demand.

The programme will involve considerable expenditure on a new well drilling programme to build on the more than 2,000 currently operating wells, as well as the building of new wastewater treatment plants. The kingdom also intends to expand and modernise existing facilities in accordance with royal decree 42, promulgated in 2000, which stipulates that all secondary technologies be upgraded to tertiary ones. ‘Most of the programme will be government-financed, although there will be some private sector participation,’ said Al-Jaber.

The kingdom currently produces almost 6 million cubic metres a day (cm/d) of potable water, 56.5 per cent of which is produced from its 36 desalination plants. Seventy-five per cent of the total potable water supply is pumped to cities, 70 per cent of which is subsequently treated. The ministry wants to raise per capita water reuse to 250 cm/d for large cities, 200 cm/d for towns and 150 cm/d for rural areas.