Water Scarcity Monitor: Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Chile

Saudi Arabia (‘Extremely High’ Water Stress Levels)

As a state presiding over vast tracts of desert, it’s not surprising that Saudi Arabia is a place where water resources are stretched to the limit.

The Kingdom draws on three main sources: underground aquifers, desalinized seawater, and mountain streams, which constitute 40%, 50%, and 10% of drinking water respectively.

The country is a world leader in desalinization technology, accounting for around one-fifth of all global desalinization activity. The process is infamously energy-intensive; in 2009, one Saudi minister estimated that one-quarter of the Kingdom’s oil and gas production went into generating fresh water and electricity. Renewable-powered desalinization methods are technically possible but have yet to manifest, in large part due to the Kingdom’s abundant fossil fuel wealth, which creates a powerful economic incentive to favor conventional methods.

A new plant is currently under construction at Rabigh, which will process 600,000 cubic meters of water once its operational.

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