Okaz (Jeddah)

Saudi Arabia plans to build 9 water desalination plants on the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, at a total cost of more than SAR 2 billion, said Abdulrahman Alfadley, Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

The minister tweeted that the project to build the plants was ordered by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The plants will have a total capacity of 240,000 cubic meters of water per day.

The news of the new plans came as Saline Water Conversion Corp (SWCC) said it had achieved a historical record in desalination technology that helped increase the production of desalinated water to 5 million cubic meters per day, a global record for the desalination industry.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman thanked SWCC for the achievements, as he paid a visit to the desalination plant in Jeddah on Wednesday.

“Increasing the production of desalinated water from 3.5 to 5 million cubic meters per day is a great achievement for Saudi Arabia”, the crown prince said during his tour at the plant.

In 2011, the volume of water supplied by the country’s 27 desalination plants in 17 locations was 3.3 million m3/day (1.2 billion m3/year).

Alfadley said the new plants, – to be equipped with modern water desalination technology – that will be completed in less than 18 months will boost production efficiency and cut operating and capital costs for the SWCC, the government corporation that operates desalination plants and power stations in Saudi Arabia.

These plants “will have a significant impact on improving the quality and scope of water services, in pursuit of the objectives of the National Transition Program 2020. These stations will also strongly contribute to our work in the Saline Water Conversion Corp (SWCC) through raising production efficiency and reducing capital and operational costs,” he said.

“This year, we achieved a record with the addition of 1.4 million cubic meters of desalinated water in 13 months, which is almost equivalent to the construction of a new desalination plant worth SAR 13 billion, without any additional capital costs.”

Water security is a key challenge for Saudi Arabia, which has invested heavily in seawater desalination, making the Kingdom 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 the harsh desert climate in the Kingdom where the annual rainfall is very low, evaporation rates high and groundwater is being depleted.

Saudi Arabia’s population grew by 2.52 percent to 32.5 million by the end of 2017, up from 31.7 million in 2016, according to figures released earlier this month by the General Authority for Statistics. The figures showed that Makkah region near the Red Sea in western Saudi Arabia is the most populated area in the Kingdom with 8.6 million people, followed by the Riyadh region with 8.2 million and the Eastern Province with 4.9 million people.

Commenting on the production milestone reached by SWCC, it’s Governor Ali bin Abdul Rahman Al-Hazmi expressed his “great delight for this historical achievement” adding that the increased production rate was reached with existing technical and human resources.

He praised all the planning and coordination efforts that stood behind the success achieved by desalination plants, research centre and the operations and maintenance sector.

“This had a significant impact on the readiness of transport systems and put the desalination plants in a state of high readiness which increased the efficiency and performance that led to the unprecedented productivity boom,” he said.

Al-Hazmi said all SWCC stations are working at full capacity “according to methodological and scientific foundations” to ensure employee and equipment safety and to keep pace with the new digital and technical transformation that meets the country’s needs and aspirations and “contributes towards more successes and achievements which will help achieve water security, one of goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030”.