SDG6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Al Maarefa University’s Endeavors in Pursuit of SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) focuses on ensuring availability and sustainable management of clean water and sanitation for all. Access to clean water and proper sanitation is essential for public health, environmental sustainability, and overall well-being. Al Maarefa University, located in Saudi Arabia, is dedicated to contributing to the realization of SDG 6 through various initiatives and programs aimed at improving water quality, promoting sustainable water management, and raising awareness about sanitation practices.

Promoting Sustainable Water Management:

Al Maarefa University recognizes the significance of responsible water management in achieving SDG 6. The university engages in research, education, and community outreach programs that emphasize the importance of water conservation, efficient usage, and protection of water resources. By training students and community members in sustainable water management practices, the university contributes to preserving this precious resource for future generations.

Research and Innovation:

The university’s commitment to SDG 6 is evident through its research efforts focused on water quality, treatment technologies, and water-related challenges. Al Maarefa University’s research initiatives aim to develop innovative solutions for water purification, pollution prevention, and efficient water distribution systems. These efforts advance the science and technology needed to address water-related issues in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Water Quality Monitoring:

Al Maarefa University plays an important role in monitoring water quality in its vicinity. By conducting regular water quality assessments, the university ensures that local water sources are safe for consumption and that any potential pollution or contamination is identified and addressed promptly. This proactive approach contributes to the overall health and well-being of the community.

Community Awareness and Outreach:

Al Maarefa University organizes workshops, seminars, and awareness campaigns that educate students and the local community about the importance of clean water and sanitation. These initiatives aim to raise awareness about water conservation, proper sanitation practices, and the role of individuals in ensuring access to clean water for all.

The university collaborates with governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other academic institutions to collectively address water-related challenges and promote sustainable water management practices. These partnerships enable the exchange of knowledge, resources, and expertise, facilitating a holistic approach to achieving SDG 6.

Integration into Curriculum:

Al Maarefa University integrates the principles of SDG 6 into its academic programs, ensuring that students across various disciplines understand the importance of clean water and sanitation. This approach fosters a multidisciplinary understanding of water-related challenges and encourages innovative thinking to address them.

Al Maarefa University’s dedication to SDG 6 is evident through its multifaceted efforts to promote clean water and sanitation. By engaging in research, education, community outreach, and partnerships, the university contributes significantly to addressing water-related challenges in Saudi Arabia. Through its commitment to sustainable water management, Al Maarefa University plays a crucial role in safeguarding water resources, protecting public health, and advancing the principles of SDG 6 towards a more sustainable and equitable future.



Almaarefa University (UM) is a private establishment of higher education, designed to fulfill a recognized public function, by meeting clearly identified needs in important domains for national development. By adopting an innovative approach to teaching and learning, by making intensive use of cutting-edge educational technologies, UM attracts students from a broadly targeted clientele, namely high school graduates (both male and female) from the Riyadh region, from other regions of Saudi Arabia, and from the GCC states.

This report aims to establish AlMaarefa University’s Sustainability and Climate Action Policy. Recognizing our responsibility as an educational institution and as members of the global community, we are committed to taking significant measures to address environmental challenges and contribute to a sustainable future for generations to come.

Guiding Principles

Our Sustainability and Climate Action Policy is based on the following guiding principles:

  • Environmental Responsibility: We recognize our responsibility towards the environment and commit to minimizing our negative impact while maximizing our positive contributions to the environment.
  • Education and Awareness: We will promote education and awareness about environmental and climate change issues within our university community.
  • Action and Continuous Improvement: We will implement concrete measures to reduce our carbon footprint and continually improve our practices and policies in favor of sustainability.


Carbon Emission Reduction

We will establish targets to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and work towards achieving net-zero emissions in our operations.

Efficient Resource Utilization

We will implement practices and technologies that promote efficient use of resources such as energy, water, and materials, encouraging recycling and reusing within the university campus.

Research Promotion in Sustainability and Climate Change

We will support and promote research and projects

Saudi Arabia to build 1,000 new dams, says minister

The new projects will take the total number of dams in the country to 1,564

Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Eng. Abdul Rahman Al-Fadli revealed that Saudi Arabia has started carrying out feasibility studies for building 1,000 new dams in different regions of the Kingdom. The new projects will take the total number of dams in the country to 1,564.

In a speech, delivered on his behalf by Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Shaibani, deputy minister for water, during the launch of the Arabic version of the World Water Development Report on the sidelines of the Cairo Water Week on Tuesday, Al-Fadli said that the new dams will increase the total storage capacity of dams to more than 2.6 billion cubic meters.

“This will serve various purposes such as feeding water-bearing layers and irrigation operations, preventing floods, and filling part of the need for urban use. Around 46 water purification plants are being built on a number of dams with a production capacity of 740,000 cubic meters per day and these are meant to use for drinking water supplies in a number of regions of the Kingdom,” he said.

The minister stressed the need for countries with arid environments to exert more efforts to confront water challenges.

“The World Water Development Report emphasized the value and importance of water, especially for countries with arid environments that suffer from water scarcity and water deficit. The most prominent feature of the report is its comprehensiveness in terms of geographical coverage as it deals with vital issues related to the water sector in general and the most important challenges facing the sector in particular,” he said.

Al-Fadli said the report contained all concerns and shortcomings in the water sector, especially in areas suffering from scarcity of water resources, as it is the case with most Arab countries that are located within the arid regions of the world.

“Hence it is required more efforts to confront water challenges from the necessary studies, valuing the sector, rehabilitating the infrastructure, employing available opportunities, and exploiting energy and industry, which makes it possible to overcome these challenges,” he said.

The minister noted that the Kingdom is one of the driest and scarce regions of water resources in the world, lacking permanent flowing rivers, and most of the used water comes from non-renewable groundwater (fossil water).

“The water sector has received unlimited attention and support from the wise leadership, which approved the necessary strategies and plans for the sustainability of water resources, by implementing giant water projects such as wellfields, desalination plants, dams, strategic storage facilities, and transmission and distribution lines,” the minister said.

Al-Fadli said the ministry seeks to excel in developing and implementing comprehensive policies, effective strategies, and upgrading services through the participation of the private sector and relevant authorities to achieve prosperity and sustainability in the environment, water and agriculture.

“The Kingdom is interested in discussing the issues and challenges of the water sector at the international and Arab levels, as well as the most important success stories and best practices implemented by countries to overcome the challenges facing the water supply chain. The Kingdom is also keen on adopting the establishment of the G20 Water Platform to highlight the most important of these successes and practices,” he said.

The minister also noted that the Kingdom’s interest was evident in its proposal at the level of the Arab world, when the Arab Ministerial Council for Water convened, to establish the Arab Center for Water Economics, which is still under the phase of discussion.

Water in Saudi Arabia: Desalination, Wastewater, and Privatization

Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the world without running surface water and has one of the highest rates of water consumption in the world. Providing new sources of potable water for the Kingdom’s growing population and expanding industry has long been a matter of national importance to the desert country. With daily water consumption at 263 liters per capita (in 2019), total water consumption has exceeded 8 million cubic meters per day (m3/d) and is forecast to reach 12.3 million m3/d by 2040. The country has relied on desalinated water since the 1950s and has since come to be the leading desalinated water producer in the world, with 7.6 million m3 produced daily accounting for 22 percent of global production. As of 2019, 60 percent of the country’s water comes from desalination, with nonrenewable groundwater (less than 40 percent) taking most of the remaining share and reclaimed wastewater surface water and surface water supplies supplying the rest. The Kingdom’s overall water demand stands at an estimated 25.29 billion m3 annually but is projected to grow slightly to 25.79 billion m3 by 2025.

Although the Saudi government has ensured that more than 97 percent of its population has reliable access to potable water, the challenge of increased consumption and decreased supply has remained a priority of the Kingdom’s development goals. As of October 2020, the Kingdom had a total of 33 desalination plants in 17 locations run by the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC), a government-run organization responsible for approximately 69 percent of desalination in the Kingdom (5.6 million m3/d) and 20 percent of worldwide desalination.

Major Desalination Projects

To meet rising demand, the Kingdom began the development of Independent Water and Power Projects (IWPPs) in 2002 with the issuance of an official resolution establishing a framework for private sector participation through build-own-operate and build-own-operate-transfer schemes. The three core IWPPs were initially Shuaibah III (built in partnership with Bechtel), Jubail III, and Shuqaiq II. The Jubail III and Shuaibah III IWPPs started production in April and August 2009, respectively, and the Shuqaiq II IWWP was completed in late 2010. Expansions for most desalination projects are already planned or underway; these include the $600 million Shuqaiq III expansion, awarded to Spanish firm Acciona, S.A. and planned for completion in Q4 2021 with the capability to supply nearly 2 million people with an output of 450,000 m3/d. Acciona was additionally chosen in 2018 as the lead contractor for the Al-Khobar I desalination plant, which will supply 350,000 people per day at a construction cost of over $240 million. Al-Khobar I began operations in September 2020 and will eventually produce 210,000 m3/d of water.

In 2015, the SWCC began operations at the $7.2 billion Ras Al-Khair desalination plant, adding more than 1 million m3/d to the national supply. The project also includes a 2,400 MW power plant, making it the world’s largest hybrid water desalination plant and the first of its kind built to such a scale. In addition, Saudi Arabia boasts the largest overall desalination plant in the world in its east-coast city of Jubail, with an output capacity of 1.4 million m3/d.

The SWCC’s most recently completed major desalination project is Yanbu III, which began operations in November 2020 at a cost of $1.3 billion. The hybrid power/desalination plant generates 3.1GW and provides 550,000 m3/d to 1.8 million residents in Madinah and the industrial city of Yanbu. The Saudi Water Partnership Company (SWPC, formerly called the Water and Electricity Company), a purchasing agent of the SWCC and the Saudi Electricity Company, is overseeing a new expansion project to the Yanbu desalination facilities; Yanbu IV will add an additional 450,000 m3/d water output at a cost of $850 million and will include a 20MW solar photovoltaic facility. In February 2015, Black & Veatch announced its selection as the engineering and design consultant for SWCC’s Shuaibah IV desalination project, a $500 million, 400,000 m3/d plant planned for completion in May 2021 and designed to augment drinking water supply to the city of Jeddah.

In late 2018, ACWA Power was chosen by the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA) to partner with the Saudi Brothers Commercial Company to develop the Rabigh 3 IWP, a reverse osmosis desalination plant with an output capacity of 600,000 m3/d (expandable to 1,200,000 m3/d). The $600 million project, expected to start operations in the first quarter of 2022, will supply water to Jeddah, Makkah, Taif, and villages in the surrounding area. ACWA Power will retain a 70 percent ownership stake upon completion of the project. The SWPC has further plans to develop Rabigh 4 (a $600 million expansion with capacity of 900,000 m3/d) and Rabigh 5 (a $400 million expansion with capacity of 400,000 m3/d).

Solar-Powered Desalination

New solutions to water issues are also being developed to complement increased desalination capacity and better conservation efforts. Today, the country is leading the world in revolutionizing the desalination industry with its innovations in solar-powered desalination plants. In January 2009, King Abdullah City for Science and Technology (KACST) officially launched the Initiative to Desalinate Water Using Solar Energy. As a part of the program, KACST collaborated with IBM to develop nanotechnology to use solar energy in the operation of desalination plants. At the end of 2011, SWCC announced a similar agreement with Japanese company Hitachi Zosen Corporation to conduct research on using solar power for desalination purposes. In March 2012, SWCC also signed a memorandum of understanding with The Dow Chemical Company to jointly pursue research and development in desalination technologies, following Dow Chemical’s plans announced in 2011 to invest in a manufacturing facility for reverse osmosis elements in the Kingdom.

Continuing KACST’s efforts towards water sufficiency, in 2018 Advanced Water Technology (AWT, a subsidiary of KACST’s commercial entity TAQNIA) completed the world’s first large-scale water desalination plant powered solely by solar energy. The $130 million, 15MW plant, located in the northeastern city of Al Khafji, serves 100,000 people with a peak production capacity of 60,000 m3/d using the techniques developed by the KACST/IBM collaboration at KACST’s Joint Center for Nanotechnology Research. As of 2018, the Kingdom’s solar-powered desalination plants save an estimated 1.5 million barrels per day of oil, with the added benefit of reducing the effects of price hikes. These capital investments provide opportunities for U.S. businesses that can help Saudi Arabia overcome its water challenges with new technologies and innovative techniques.

Desalination Investments and Initiatives

Saudi Arabia’s desalination plants use a number of different processes. According to the Saudi government body that regulates electricity and water generation industry, the Electricity and Co-Generation Regulatory Authority, as of 2018, 64 percent of the Kingdom’s desalinated water is produced by the multi-stage flash process (MSF), 20 percent is produced via reverse osmosis (RO), and 16 percent is produced using multi-effect distillation (MED). In 2016, SWCC announced plans to invest about $80 billion to increase desalinated water production to 8.5 million m3/d by 2025. Furthermore, in 2017, the SWCC produced an additional 1.4 million m3 of desalinated water in 13 months using existing facilities, an output nearly equal to that of a newly built desalination plant worth $3.5 billion without any additional capital costs.

In addition, the National Water Company (NWC), a Saudi joint stock company fully owned by the Public Investment Fund, has invested nearly $6.7 billion more than 300 water projects over the last decade in the fields of service, infrastructure development and water treatment in Makkah, Riyadh, Taif and Jeddah, and recently announced investment opportunities worth billions more over the next five years. The private sector contributes 2 million m3/d to SWCC’s production via the SWPC, and investment incentives exist for companies that want to help contribute to further growth in the industry. In estimates from 2016, MEWA calculated that there were $107 billion worth of investment opportunities in the water and wastewater sectors available through the end of 2025.

Improving Efficiency and Reducing Waste in Water Transmission

However, desalination alone may not be able to provide for future demand, which has been growing approximately 7 to 8 percent annually. Saudi Arabia has taken a number of measures to reduce consumption by increasing efficiency, eliminating waste, and ending unsustainable practices. The use of ground water to irrigate crops beginning in the 1970s nearly depleted Saudi Arabia’s aquifers and set the country on an unsustainable path regarding the rate at which its natural water resources replenish. This led the Saudi Government to end subsidies in 2016 for water-intensive crops in order to discourage agricultural water use. The Kingdom now imports most of its food and has completely halted agricultural production of wheat and other cereals. However, the agricultural sector has shifted to other water intensive crops, meaning the sector still accounts for approximately 83 percent of the country’s water consumption, with industry using four percent and residential/domestic accounting for the remainder.

In early 2016, new tariffs were implemented for water and sanitary drainage services for consumers in the government, industrial, and commercial sectors. These sectors are required to pay a significantly higher tariff rate than the residential tariffs introduced in 2016, which mainly impact only the very largest of water consumers in the Kingdom and do not apply to water sold via tanker trucks.

In March 2019, the Kingdom launched a National Transformation Plan initiative called the National Program for Water Conservation (also called Qatrah, which is Arabic for “droplet”), aiming to meet Vision 2030’s objective to preserve the country’s non-renewable water resources. Qatrah’s goal, with the cooperation of the NWC, is to reduce the country’s average daily per capita water consumption 24 percent by 2021 and 43 percent by 2030, or from 263 liters per capita per day in 2019 to 150 liters by 2030. The initiative engages with the private and public sectors through programs to reduce consumption and plug water leaks with updated infrastructure and leak detection technology; in addition, it requires cooperation at the individual level through conservation awareness programs to reduce wasteful consumption.

As a result of aging distribution systems and inefficient usage (both pre- and post-meter), Saudi Arabia can lose up to 40 percent of its transmitted water on any given day (25 percent in urban areas), one of the highest water loss rates in the world. In 2007, the Kingdom launched a program to address leakages by replacing municipal distribution systems. NWC announced the application of modern monitoring devices and technology, including radar beams, audio devices, and helium gas to monitor leaks in the networks. In 2014, the company disclosed that it had saved more than 433 million m3 of water from 2009-2014 worth $690 million. To further reduce leakage and waste, the Kingdom aims to reuse over 90 percent of its water by 2040 (currently 65 percent, approximately) by transforming its existing and planned wastewater treatment assets into source water suppliers across most industrial sectors. Ultimately, the MEWA plans to reduce losses to 15 percent by 2030.

Wastewater: Government and Private Sector Solutions

Saudi Arabia has 204 wastewater treatment plants (as of 2019), with much of the treated non-potable wastewater finding useful purposes as “grey water,” watering green spaces in cities, irrigating crops, or reused in industry. Valued at $4.69 billion by Gulf State Analytics, the Kingdom’s water reuse market is estimated as the third largest in the world after China and the U.S. Treated and repurposed wastewater is cheaper on average to produce than desalinated water; for this reason, the Kingdom considers it a vital source of water for certain uses and has set a goal to achieve 100 percent reuse of treated urban wastewater by 2025.

In 2015, MEWA (at the time called the Ministry of Water and Electricity) signed more than 75 water and sewage projects worth more than $425 million to be implemented in various regions of the Kingdom, following up in 2016 by awarding $142 million more in sewerage projects. Furthermore, at the 2015 Water Arabia conference in Al-Khobar, the Saudi government committed $66 billion to long-term capital investments in water and sanitation projects through 2025.

In 2012, the NWC made plans to involve the private sector in $23 billion of capital wastewater treatment and reuse infrastructure projects through 2030, in line with the Kingdom’s broader privatization goals. As a result of private sector involvement, the number of new wastewater connections made annually in Riyadh and Jeddah grew from 20,700 in 2010 to more than 38,000 in 2016. The NWC also worked to build and expand its wastewater treatment plants in Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah and Taif since 2016, adding 2 million m3/d in capacity. Despite the economic challenges the Kingdom faced in 2020, the SWPC was able to close a deal to build the country’s first independent sewage treatment plant (ISTP). The $245 million project, managed by a private sector consortium led by Dubai-based Metito Group under a 25-year build-own-operate-transfer contract, will be built to process up to 350,000 m3/d of wastewater from Dammam and will serve as a model for future private sector wastewater initiatives. The Kingdom has set a goal to increase national wastewater treatment processing capacity to 8.4 million m3/d by 2023 in order to meet rising demand and appears to be on-track, with 3.2 million m3/d under construction or under tendering to be added to the country’s current treatment capacity of 5.6 million m3/d. By 2030, the total amount of collected wastewater will reach 10.3 million m3/d after the addition of 11 large-scale and 150 small-scale plants (defined as under 25,000 m3/d treatment capacity) the SWPC estimates will be needed to meet rising demand.

Increased capacity for sewage treatment has also provided a new solution to the Kingdom’s water shortage. Saudi Arabia aims to become the Gulf Cooperation Council’s largest market for treated sewage effluent (TSE), a water reuse method that is a strong alternative to using desalinated water in non-potable applications. To that end, the Kingdom has set a target of increasing TSE reuse to 70 percent (nearly 4 million m3/day) by 2030 under the Kingdom’s National Water Strategy.

National Water Company’s water treatment storage tanks. Source: Al Riyadh

Government Initiatives and Privatization

As part of Saudi Arabia’s strategic objectives in its National Transformation Plan and Vision 2030 program, the Kingdom aims to increase the proportion of desalinated water owned and produced by private operators. Announced in late 2019, this government initiative aimed to generate up to $11 billion in non-oil revenue and create 12,000 private sector jobs by the end of 2020, although this timeframe was pushed back by the 2020 pandemic’s economic effects. The eventual goal of Vision 2030’s water sector privatization is to raise as much as $200 billion (not including Saudi Aramco’s IPO) through privatization and private-public partnerships.

To further Vision 2030’s objectives on privatization in the water sector, MEWA created the National Water Strategy. One of its pillars is the privatization model outlining the separation of the water production assets from the transmission assets to further the Vision 2030 goal of a 65 percent increase in GDP contribution from the private sector over the next decade. The initiatives intend to strengthen competition, improve the quality of provided services, further economic development, and remove obstacles to investment within the water and wastewater sectors. The National Water Strategy has set goals for nationwide wastewater coverage to grow from 65 percent in 2020 to 95-100 percent by 2030, with strategic partners taking over responsibility of 100 percent of treated water production by 2030 as well. In 2018, the Saudi government reported its efforts under Vision 2030 had achieved a number of goals, including rehabilitating agricultural terraces in the Kingdom’s south to improve the efficiency of water use and promote less water-intensive crops; improving the efficiency of desalinated water production; and improving the country’s billing and tracking of water usage by installing over a million linked high-precision electronic meters.

In November 2020, MEWA announced the establishment of the Water Transmission and Technologies Company (WTTCO) to support the Kingdom’s water privatization and restructuring program. The WTTCO will manage and maintain over 5,200 miles (8,400 km) of water transmission, distribution, and storage systems that transmit more than 7 million m3/d of desalinated water, while adding more than 2,100 miles (3,500 km) of new transmission lines capable of distributing more than 4 million m3/d. The government-run entity is also tasked with implementing Vision 2030’s goals of higher efficiency, reduced waste, decreased operating costs, and enhanced innovation within the water sector. The WTTCO will furthermore seek more than $16 billion of private sector investment in water transmission technologies and strategic storage systems.

The NWC is now moving ahead with plans to partially privatize its water and wastewater assets and has acquired technical, legal, and financial consultants on its TSE program. Under the 2030 National Water Strategy, the NWC is opening opportunities for private firms to help develop 114 sewage treatment plants with a total processing capacity of 5.1 million m3/d, with the first phase tendering offers for 15 sewage treatment plants accounting for nearly half of country’s treatment capacity (2.5 million m3/d). The contracts cover rehabilitation, operational improvements, and capacity increases, with additional contracts in the pipeline for 2021 and beyond. While NWC will remain a significant shareholder in the treatment plants, one or more private sector firms will assume operation and maintenance activities. The first set of contracts to be offered by the NWC for operating its water distribution assets, six in total, will run for a period of between three and seven years, with long term goals to transfer these contracts into concession arrangements lasting 25 to 30 years.

These decisions mirror the Saudi government’s recent approval of the SWCC’s plans to privatize its operations – one of Vision 2030’s reform goals – in order to invite private sector efficiency and experience to the Kingdom’s water sector. As of January 2021, the SWCC had prequalified seven interested parties out of a pool of 37 for the forthcoming privatization of its largest asset, the Ras Al-Khair plant. The winning bidder/consortium will acquire a 60 percent stake, along with managerial and operational control, for an estimated book value of $3.3 to $3.5 billion. The SWCC has already begun its plans to privatize 11 desalination plants with a total capacity of 4.3 million m3/d and nine sewage treatment plants with a combined capacity of 1.1 million m3/d.

The Future of Saudi Arabia’s Water

Rising demand, large government projects, and the government’s nascent privatization efforts have made Saudi Arabia’s water and wastewater sector an attractive market for U.S. companies offering engineering services for the desalination and wastewater industries. Although the Saudi government is leading the investment drive in the sector, local private sector companies are looking for foreign technology partners and lenders to help bid on new contracts and build additional plants while the government seeks to attract outside investment.

Saudi Arabia, although facing significant water challenges, is rising to the occasion through its diverse set of development goals established under Vision 2030. The country aims to meet its goals through a careful mix of privatization, technological advancements, infrastructure construction, and regulatory reforms. The innovations developed by the Kingdom’s industry leaders and research institutions will help the Kingdom not only achieve their own goals, but also assist the rest of the world in meeting this century’s new water challenges.

Saudi Arabia launches program for a drastic reduction in water use

Through the program, the ministry aims to reduce daily per capita consumption from 263 liters to 200 liters by 2020 and to 150 liters by 2030.

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Infographic Qatrah Program

Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture, Abdulrahman Al Fadley, announces at the March 17-19 Saudi Water Forum 2019 the Qatrah program to rationalize water consumption.Photo courtesy of Qatrah program.

RIYADH, MARCH 21, 2019 — Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s driest countries, has announced a national program for rationalizing water consumption in the Kingdom, setting ambitious targets that include slashing usage by nearly 24 percent by next year and some 43 percent by the end of the next decade. The announcement came at the Saudi Water Forum 2019, held this week in Riyadh, and with World Water Day set for Friday, March 22.

Speaking at the March 17-19 Forum, Saudi Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture, Abdulrahman Al Fadley, officially launched the Qatrah (Arabic for ‘droplet’) program, aimed at reducing water consumption as part of the ministry’s efforts to attain water sustainability, along its official website ( and social media accounts. Citizens can pledge to conserve water by registering on the site.

With the theme “Sustainable Water for Sustainable Development”, the forum itself aimed to promote sustainability in Saudi Arabia’s water management sector, localize international expertise in the sector, attract foreign investment into the industry, and increase the implementation of state-of-the-art water technology.

Saudi Arabia, which has a population of about 33.4 million, is the world’s third largest per capita consumer of water after the United States (pop. 324.5 million approx.) and Canada (pop. 37.2 million), according to the Qatrah website. Through the Qatrah program, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture aims to reduce daily per capita consumption from 263 liters to 200 liters by 2020 and to 150 liters by 2030.

The water conservation program will be implemented by the government-owned National Water Company in all regions of the Kingdom “which occupies one of the world’s highest levels of per capita water consumption globally, not in keeping with its water conditions,” a statement said.

The Qatrah program promotes the importance of water conservation, proposes methods for rationalizing industrial and residential consumption and educates individuals on the importance of modifying their own water usage. The rationalization of water consumption, both industrial and residential, is part of the National Transformation Program 2020 and the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 roadmap for the future.

“Qatrah has been established to contribute to changing the behavior of individuals, raising water awareness, sustaining water resources, optimizing water resources through rationalization, and will allow society of maximize the benefits of food, fuel, electricity and water support, as well as safeguard natural resources,” the statement said.

Water security is a key challenge facing Saudi Arabia and has already led to the Kingdom emerging as the world’s largest producer of desalinated water. According to the Global Food Security Index 2015, 97 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population has access to potable water, despite extremely low annual rainfall, very high evaporation rates and the depletion of groundwater through previously unfettered usage.

Water conservation is far from just a Saudi issue. World Water Day 2019 falls on Friday March 22 and was created to highlight the importance of freshwater and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The internationally recognized theme this year is ‘Leaving no one behind’.

Developing techniques for water production & distribution at lowest cost

A number of government ministers and senior officials in the water sector from inside and outside the Kingdom attended the Saudi Water Forum, which is being held under the theme “Sustainable Water for Sustainable Development” and intends to shed light on the efforts and future directions of the water sector, according to Vision 2030 and National Water Strategy.

In his address at the Water Forum’s opening ceremony on Sunday, Minister Al Fadley praised the government’s unity of purpose that has been indispensable to the Ministry’s success in implementing strategic water projects.

“The reality of the water sector in the Kingdom requires all of us to work together — the public sector, the private sector and the citizenry – with the aim of developing techniques for the production and distribution of water at the lowest possible cost,” Al Fadley said.

Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, Dr. Faisal Al-Subaie, in his opening remarks pointed out that the forum takes place during the same week as World Water Day, enhancing the “opportunity for all water sectors to learn about the experiences and technical developments that address the scarcity of water and resources locally, regionally and internationally.”

  1. The Forum hosted five workshops on water project management, focusing on 1) the latest designs and operations of membrane desalination plants; 2) the use of intelligent technologies in water distribution management; 3) discussion of Japanese water strategy; 4) private sector participation in water; and 5) sanitation projects. Additionally, Forum attendees have the opportunity to sit in on three panel discussions dealing with Privatization and investment in the water sector; The role of society in water sustainability and rationalization of use; and
  2. The role of research institutes in water sustainability.

Rationalizing water use in the agricultural sector

Dr. Abdul Hameed Al-Zaraa, Advisor and Director of the Water Projects Monitoring Office at the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, also addressed the Forum, informing participants about the Ministry’s most important initiatives and projects. He also highlighted sources for the Kingdom’s water and how they pertain to the agricultural, urban and industrial sectors.

According to Dr. Al Zaraa, the Kingdom’s water sources include desalinated water, renewable groundwater, non-renewable groundwater, treated wastewater and surface water. In 2016, he said, a total of 82 percent of non-renewable water consumption came in the agricultural sector, while the industrial and urban sectors accounted for 5 percent and 12 percent of non-renewable consumption, respectively.

“The agricultural sector consumes the most water, requiring the implementation of a number of initiatives that reduce water consumption in this sector, the most important of which are national transformation initiatives to control and regulate water consumption in agriculture and in the consumption of well water,” he said, adding that the Ministry plans to reduce the amount of water used in the agricultural sector and increase the amount of water available to the urban sector in 2030.

Between 2012 and 2016, per capita consumption of water in Saudi Arabia increased significantly from 237 liters to 271 liters, he continued, pointing out the significant challenges to reducing water consumption. This problem, he stressed, is not confined to the Kingdom but is, indeed, a global problem.