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$4bn set aside for Saudi water projects

Saudi arabia water Eric Lafforque/Alamy via Reuters
Desalination provides more than 5 million cubic metres of water a day in Saudi Arabia, covering about 70 percent of drinking water
  • Recycling 2bn cubic metres of water
  • Funds to cover up to 2030
  • Part of national water strategy

Saudi Arabia will spend $4 billion by the end of the decade on recycling over 2 billion cubic metres of water, about 70 percent of the country’s renewable water sources, an official said this week. 

Speaking at the World Water Forum in Indonesia, Mohammed bin Zaid Abuhid, head of the General Authority for Irrigation, outlined the plan for 96 projects involved in the reuse of water in irrigation, industry and urban development.

“Renewable water plays a major role in the national water strategy,” he said, pointing to a threefold increase in recycled water usage since 2016 to 508 million cubic metres in 2023. 

Up to 80 percent of Saudi Arabia’s groundwater has been used up, largely due to wheat production since the 1970s. 

Since 2008 the country has become one of the world’s largest investors in agricultural land, buying or leasing territory in Argentina, Australia, Egypt, Brazil, Sudan, Ukraine and the US.

Desalination now provides more than 5 million cubic metres of water a day, covering about 70 percent of drinking water. But that figure is set to rise to 8 million cubic metres covering 90 percent of needs in 2025, according to the Arab Center in Washington DC. 

The country’s national water strategy includes increased use of dams and irrigation canals, as well as recycling rain and desalinated water. 

The National Water Company, which is owned by the Public Investment Fund, has spent SAR50 billion ($13 billion) on water projects since 2017 and has SAR30 billion in process, it says. 

Traditional mountain terraces have been reestablished in the southwest of the country to help with gathering rainwater, the government says.  

“More than 975 hectares of agricultural terraces have been rehabilitated in the southwestern region," an official report on the country’s economic transformation plan said last month.

"These terraces are equipped with rainwater harvesting techniques to promote sustainable water use.”  

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