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Saudi looks to potable water from the desert to meet need

KSA launches a US $107 million scheme to pump water from Al-Rub Al-Khali to Najran in the south of the country

Saudi Arabia has launched a US $107 million (SR400 million) project that will pump potable water from Al-Rub Al-Khali to the southern Najran region.

The contract was awarded to Al Suwaih Agricultural Trading Company, which is set to complete the work in 36 months.

A plan to construct an underground dam in Najran to block the subterranean flow of water is also under consideration.

“The two projects will have a combined capacity of 100,000m3 and will play a big role in solving Najran’s water problem to a great extent,” said the minister of electricity and water, Abdullah Al-Hussayen.

Saudi Arabia consumes 230 litres of water per capita daily, compared with 150 litres in Europe. According to predictions from the Central Department of Statistics, the kingdom’s total population will exceed 29 million by 2010, rising to 36.4 million by year 2015.

Taking a baseline consumption of 300 litres per person per day, the resulting demand for water will increase to over 3000 million m3 per year by 2010.

Muhammad Sultan, professor at the Western Michigan University said Al-Rub Al-Khali showed signs of considerable groundwater resources.

“We have to do our homework and to establish its whereabouts and how much we can take out of it so that we can set up sustainable development of this area,” he said.

The Najran area has suffered shortages of water for a long time due to untapped resources and negligence on the part of the development authorities.

But now with the rapid growth of other Middle East countries, Saudi Arabia is trying to keep up. The kingdom will need a capital investment averaging $2 billion per year for the next 20 years to meet projected water demand.

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