Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s driest countries, has announced a national program for rationalising water consumption in the Kingdom, setting ambitious targets that include slashing usage by nearly 24% by next year and some 43% 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 (www.qatrah.com) 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.