Saudi Arabia is investing huge sums to diversify its water supply, while at the same time fanning a booming construction industry. Will the latter negate the former?
Desertification, depletion of underground water sources, and lack of perennial rivers or permanent water bodies are among Saudia Arabia’s greatest environmental challenges. In part, these are being met by pouring money into energy-hungry desalination facilities.
With oil reserves overestimated by 40%, and peak oil on the horizon, the Royals are realizing the need to diversify. Construction Week reported that over the next 15 years, the Gulf country will invest $53 billion on water projects, 70% of which will be devoted to sewage and wastewater treatment plants.
Arabian Business recently reported that Saudi entered into water and sanitation contracts worth $130 million. These monies will benefit communities throughout the country, including Makkah, Madinah, Baha, the northern borders, the eastern province, Qassim, Najran and Tabuk.
Abdullah bin Abdulrahman Al-Hossein, the Minister of Water and Electricity, signed off on the deals that are aimed at developing new and improved sanitation systems, water pipelines and networks, dams, wells and reservoirs.
Despite its bevy of desalination plants, including the world’s largest, and 20% of the world’s oil reserves to help fuel them, Saudi has to diversify its water supply in order to supply a population of 26,131,703 and growing.
In the meantime, Saudi’s construction industry is growing. A boon to job creation, the construction industry nonetheless requires significant water investments.
A chart produced by UCL Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering demonstrates that in the UK alone, the steel industry requires 12.18 million cubic meters of water each year, aluminum requires 4.5 million cubic meters, and concrete uses slightly less at 1.56 million cubic meters of water each year.
The Soaring Saudi Building Construction Report – November 2010 released by Ventures Middle East shows that by 2012, construction contracts will amount to US$ 39,138 million. The report also projects a 12% annual growth rate in construction projects.
As Saudi invests money in desalination projects and water recycling, an important step towards reducing reliance on desalination, measures should be taken to ensure the construction industry does not cancel out hydrological gains.
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image via Marshall Strabala