Desalinated Saudi Arabian Water Costs More for Foreigners

iceland water theme uaeWater theme parks, like this one in the UAE, won’t reduce high water tariffs from desalination

Saudi Arabia’s plans to increase water tariffs for non-residents, due to the high cost of producing desalinated fresh water, has an all too familiar ring in today’s increasing reliance on desalination in water scarce regions like the Middle East. The report, as published in Bloomberg Financial News, notes that “the kingdom needs 124.9 billion riyals ($33.3 billion USD) in investments in desalination and water recycling plants to meet rising water demand.”

The desert kingdom is now reputed to be the world’s largest user of reverse osmosis and other kinds of desalination technology, and boasts having the planet’s largest desalination facility in the Kingdom’s eastern Gulf province.

desalination saudi arabiaJubail desalination plant -world’s largest

It’s no wonder that with oil, the main fuel for these plants, becoming more expensive, even an oil rich country like Saudi Arabia has to spend much more of its Gross Domestic Product on supplying enough water to satisfy the needs of its growing population. This population includes large numbers of non-residents, particularly foreign or “guest workers” who are responsible for building the many construction projects in the country as well as keeping the oil flowing to foreign countries so dependent on it.

For this reason, Riyadh-based National Water Co. Chief Executive Officer Loay al-Mussalamhas decided to put the burden of payment for supplying the country with fresh water on the non-resident population who greatly outnumber Saudi nationals.

Due to water resources becoming scarcer and scarcer in this part of the world, Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries, including Kuwait and other Persian Gulf countries like Abu Dhabi,   have to rely more and more on desalination and waste water treatment to provide fresh water to their populations. Foreign employees of energy producing companies, as well as construction companies already pay much higher taxes than Saudi nationals, and paying most of the costs for desalinated water will be an increased  burden; especially laborers from poor countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The Saudi Government, of which many officials are members of the Saudi royal family – either by birth or marriage, are not likely to change their policies toward non-residents anytime soon. But what they can do is become much more conscious about water conservation, including recycling of waste water like Abu Dhabi wants to do. This means forgoing outlandish water park projects like the UAE’s Iceland Water Theme Park – live penguins and all.

The Arabian Peninsula’s hot and dry climate is not going to change anytime soon, which means all residents of this region will have to rely more and more on desalination to acquire the fresh water they need. But more intelligent practices of water conservation will help all these countries, including Saudi Arabia, to better use the water resources they do have available.

Read more on Saudi Arabia desalination projects:
Saudi Arabia to Replace Oil with Sun Power for Desalination Plants
Japan and Saudi Arabia Plan Giant Desalination Equipment Plant
Saudi Arabia Opens World’s Largest Desalination Plant

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2 thoughts on “Desalinated Saudi Arabian Water Costs More for Foreigners”

  1. Maurice says:


    As The immortal American actor and comedian Will Rogers once said: “All I know that is truthful is what I read in the papers”.

    And That’s where I got his info, aide from the noted links. As for taxes, in understand for foreign workers are levied a “personal tax” related to what the type of work they are doing is.

    In any event, someone has to pay for this water, and it appears the non-residential workers pay their share for sure.

  2. qwe says:

    Actually foreigners in Saudi live tax-free…do your homework before publishing an article.

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