How does Saudi Arabia Get its Water?

Saudi Arabia is known to be among the driest kingdoms in the world. It has no or less perennial rivers making it obtain its waters in the following four distinct areas: 

  • Desalinated waters
  • The non-renewable groundwaters obtained from deep fossil aquifers
  • Renewable water obtained from the shallow aquifers alluvial
  • Through the renewable surface water

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Even though all renewable sources of water contain low volumes of water, they are still important for Saudi Arabia. However, of the highlighted water sources, desalination waters provide the country’s largest water volume, reaching about half of the country’s contribution to drinking water.

In addition to desalination, groundwater provides roughly 40% to 45% of the country’s drinking water. Another source of water is surface water, which contributes approximately 10%.

Deep Fossils Groundwater Aquifers

How does Saudi Arabia get water from Deep Fossils groundwater aquifers.

The extraction levels of the fossils for the past 25 years have gone deeper than the natural recharge to a depth of 150 meters. These estimates are however controversial due to the principal aquifers making it unclear how long this groundwater can be mined and sustained. 

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The estimated stored water before modern farming was introduced was roughly 500B cm3 which is equal to Lake Erie’s estimated water levels. 

Desalinated Water

Desalinated Water

One of the largest water productions in Saudi Arabia originates from the twenty-seven desalination plants. 

Roughly 12 of these plants use MSF distillation while the other 7 plants use the MED distillation method. These distillation processes are integrated with the power plant’s steam as its the source of primary energy 

The remaining eight plants use RO (reverse osmosis) power and technology from the grid. 

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is known to hold 40% of the Arab’s desalinated water. 

Moreover, this source of water needs a lot of energy, leading to almost 25% of Saudi Arabia’s gas and oil production being directed to the generation of electricity and the production of water from the cogeneration power desalination plants. 

Solar Powered Desalination

Solar Powered Desalination

KSA established a 130 million solar-powered desalination plant that carries out reverse osmosis and was deemed to contain a capacity of 60000 m³ per day.

Floating desalination

These barges have been operational since 2008 to cater to the increasing demand for water on the Kingdom’s West Coast. The largest floating plant was deemed to supply around 25000 m³ per day which is sufficient to supply more than 20000 residents in the Kingdom with drinking water. 

Surface Water and Alluvial Aquifers

Surface Water and Alluvial Aquifers

There has been an estimate of two billion cubic meters per annum.

The Kingdom is equipped with about 11 aquifers which averagely recharge a total of one billion meters cubic per annum. 

The renewable aquifers and water resources are mostly in the South West and West where rainfall occurs in plenty.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is desalination and why does Saudi Arabia use it?

Desalination is the process of removing salt and other minerals from seawater to make it drinkable. Saudi Arabia uses desalination because it has a limited supply of fresh water and an extensive coastline on the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.

How many desalination plants does Saudi Arabia have and how much water do they produce?

Saudi Arabia has about 27 desalination plants that use different technologies such as reverse osmosis and distillation. They produce about 13.2 million cubic meters of water per day, which is about 32% of the total water supply in the country.

What are the other sources of water in Saudi Arabia besides desalination?

The other sources of water in Saudi Arabia are groundwater, surface water, and rainwater harvesting. Groundwater is stored in underground aquifers that are replenished by rainfall and oases. Surface water comes from rivers, lakes, and dams. Rainwater harvesting involves collecting and storing rainwater for later use.

How much water does Saudi Arabia consume and what are the main sectors that use it?

Saudi Arabia consumes about 24 billion cubic meters of water per year, which is about 800 cubic meters per person. The main sectors that use water are agriculture (80%), domestic (10%), industrial (7%), and municipal (3%).


Saudi Arabia is a desert country that faces many challenges in meeting its water needs. It relies on various sources of water, such as desalination, groundwater, surface water, and rainwater harvesting.

Desalination is the main source of drinking water in Saudi Arabia, as it has a large coastline on the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The country has about 27 desalination plants that use different technologies to remove salt from seawater.

Groundwater is another important source of water in Saudi Arabia, as it is stored in underground aquifers that are replenished by rainfall and oases. However, groundwater is being depleted and contaminated by overuse and pollution.

Surface water and rainwater harvesting are also used to supplement the water supply in Saudi Arabia, especially in the western and southwestern regions where rainfall is more abundant. These sources of water are renewable and environmentally friendly.

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