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Water Infrastructure in KSA

Al Khobar water tower Water Infrastructure in KSA
Photo1 : Al Khobar water tower, KSA. (Source: Martijn J, Flickr)

In order to overcome the water scarcity and the increasing demand, investments have been undertaken in the water infrastructure in KSA.

Water and sanitary networks

KSA’s main water pipelines extend more than 8,000 km, the majority of which are owned and operated by the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC).[1] The total length of the water network in 2019 was 121,356 km, and the number of domestic water connections was 2.26 million. At the same time, the length of the wastewater collection network was 43,729 km, and the number of domestic connections was 1.46 million.[2]

Dams

There are 522 dams around the country (Map 1), with a total capacity of 2.30 BCM to facilitate storage and surface runoff and groundwater recharge. The total amount of the utilized water from dams is about 1.6 BCM/yr. Some 73% of the total utilized water from dams is in the regions of Asir, Mecca and Jazan. These areas contain abundant renewable groundwater and surface water due to their rocky, non-porous terrain at the level of the Arab Shield.[3]

dams KSA, Water Infrastructure in KSA
Map 1: Location of the major dams in KSA. @Fanack water

Table 1 shows the regional distribution, capacities and purposes of the dams, while the details of the major dams are shown in Table 2.

Table 1: Regional distribution, capacities and purposes of the dams in KSA.[4]

RegionNumber of damsCapacity (MCM)Purpose
Riyadh 107106.96Groundwater recharge and flood control
Mecca60883.32Drinking water and flood control
Medina41111.91Drinking water, groundwater recharge and flood control
Qassim 188.86Groundwater recharge and flood control
Eastern 211.22Groundwater recharge and flood control
Asir 118521.13Drinking water, groundwater recharge and flood control
Tabuk1917.87Groundwater recharge and flood control
Hail4627.80Groundwater recharge and flood control
Northern Border1161.71Groundwater recharge and flood control
Jazan15331.19Irrigation, drinking water, groundwater recharge and flood control
Najran 26103.74Drinking water, groundwater recharge and flood control
Baha49104.06Drinking water, groundwater recharge and flood control
Jawf 1014.61Drinking water, groundwater recharge and flood control
Total 5222,304.39

Table 2: Major dams in KSA.[5] [6] [7]

NameRegionCompletedHeight (m)Capacity (MCM)
Wadi AbhaAsir197433213
King FahdAsir1998103325
BishJazan200974194
RabighMecca -184220
Wadi NajranNajran19807386
Hali Dam Mecca 2009-249
Wadi JazanJazan19703551
Qaa Hathutha Medina2001740

Water treatment plants

There are 353 water treatment plants built on dams and groundwater wells, with an overall production capacity of 2.07 MCM/d. Table 3 provides an overview.

Table 3: Regional distribution and capacities of water treatment plants on dams and wells in KSA.[8]

RegionNumber of plantsTotal designed capacity (m3/d)Total production capacity (m3/d)
Riyadh871,468,2501,060,333
Mecca7241,750118,238
Medina3325,8005,958
Qassim27541,400415,269
Eastern61129,00021,548
Asir16211,70066,693
Tabuk164,9003,070
Hail34171,600156,730
Northern Border3155,60042,381
Jazan9153,600109,089
Najran2024,40011,279
Baha478,00025,165
Jawf831,80031,817
Total3533,137,8002,067,570

Desalination plants

Between 1980 and 2011, 30 desalination plants were built along the coasts of the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, producing the largest quantity of desalinated water of any country. By 2020, there were 33 desalination plants in KSA.[9] The locations of these desalination plants are shown in Map 2.[10] The main techniques used are multi-effect desalination (MED), multi-stage flash (MSF) and reverse osmosis (RO). Daily production in 2017 was around 4 MCM using different desalination technologies. Of the total desalinated water currently produced, 77.5% is produced by MSF, 20.5% by RO and 2% by MED plants.

desalination KSA, Water Infrastructure in KSA
Map 2: Location of KSA’s desalination plants. @Fanack water

KSA produced 7.65 MCM of desalinated water in 1980.[11] This amount increased to approximately 1,070 MCM in 2004 and 1,048 MCM in 2009. The plant-specific production of desalinated water, desalination approaches, commission dates and years of service are presented in Table 4.[12]

The SWCC is considered to be the largest producer of desalinated water and owns the majority of desalination plants in KSA, accounting for 73% of the total production capacity.[13] To meet the potable water demand, which is expected to be 8.5 MCM/d by 2025, SWCC is aiming to increase its installed water production capacity to around 8.8 MCM/d by 2030.

Desalinated water is mainly used for domestic purposes in the major cities. Of these cities, Riyadh, Mecca, Medina and Dammam consume approximately 90% of the desalinated water. [14]

Table 4: Summary of the major desalination plants in KSA.[15]

PlantSupply (MCM/yr)Plant total (MCM/yr)Date of commissionStage
Jubail 143.23369.3119821st
Jubail 2297.5419832nd
Jubail RO28.542000RO
Khobar 270157.8919832nd
Khobar 387.8920003rd
Jeddah 327.74132.9519793rd
Jeddah 469.5519824th
Jeddah RO 117.8319891st
Shoaiba 170212.6819892nd
Shoaiba 2142.6820011st
Yanbu 134.54117.419812nd
Yanbu 243.841998RO
Yanbu RO39.0219981st
Shoqaia30.4530.4519891st
Wajih3.293.2920093rd, MED
Umluj RO1.381.381986RO
Rabigh 26.576.5720092nd, MED
Aziziyah1.411.4119871st
Farasan 10.160.1619791st

Wastewater treatment plants

There are 99 wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in KSA. The location of the major WWTPs is presented in Map 3. Riyadh, Mecca and the Eastern Province account for about 79% of the country’s total capacity. Table 5 describes the main features of the major WWTPs.

WWTPs in KSA, Water Infrastructure in KSA
Map 3: Location of the major WWTPs in KSA.[16] @Fanack water

Table 5: Major WWTPs in KSA.

WWTPTechnologyCapacity (m3/d)Treatment levelPurpose
Manfouha-Riyadh Trickling filter, activated sludge North 200,000, South 200,000, East 200,000Tertiary Irrigation
Heet-Alkharj Activated sludge Phase I 100,000, Phase II 100,000, Phase III (under construction) 200,000Tertiary Irrigation, groundwater recharge
Hayer-Riyadh Activated sludge Phase I 400,000Tertiary Irrigation, groundwater recharge
Refinery-Riyadh Clarification and filtration 20,000Tertiary Agricultural irrigation
Dammam Activated sludge 215,000 Tertiary Landscape irrigation
Medina Media filtration 460,000Tertiary Agricultural irrigation
Taif Activated sludge 190,000Tertiary/secondary Landscape irrigation
MeccaTrickling filter/activated sludge Phase I 24,000, Phase II 50,000Tertiary Irrigation and industrial
Qatif Oxidation ditch 210,000Tertiary Landscape
Khobar Oxidation ditch 133,000Tertiary Landscape

[1] Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, 2019. Statistical book: Year 2019 (1440-1441).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, 2018. National Water Strategy 2030.
[4] Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, 2019. Statistical book: Year 2019 (1440-1441).
[5] Abu-Abdullah, MM et al., 2020. A flood risk management program of Wadi Baysh dam on the downstream area: An integration of hydrologic and hydraulic models, Jizan region, KSA. Sustainability 12(3): 1069.
[6] Fosroc, nd. Hali Dam, Saudi Arabia.
[7] Chowdhury S and Al-Zahrani M, 2015. Characterizing water resources and trends of sector wise water consumptions in Saudi Arabia. Journal of King Saud University – Engineering Sciences 27(1); 68-82.
[8] Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, 2019. Statistical book: Year 2019 (1440-1441).
[9] US-Saudi Business Council, 2021. Water in Saudi Arabia: Desalination, wastewater and privatization.
[10] Chowdhury S and Al-Zahrani M, 2015. Characterizing water resources and trends of sector wise water consumptions in Saudi Arabia. Journal of King Saud University – Engineering Sciences 27(1); 68-82.
[11] SWCC, 2011. General organization of water desalination.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, 2018. National Water Strategy 2030.
[14] Chowdhury S and Al-Zahrani M, 2015. Characterizing water resources and trends of sector wise water consumptions in Saudi Arabia. Journal of King Saud University – Engineering Sciences 27(1); 68-82.
[15] SWCC, 2011. General organization of water desalination.
[16] Ibid.