Water scarcity has been a long standing problem in Saudi Arabia, as only a few cities receive a constant supply of desalinated water due to low water pressure. Aggravating the problem is the availability of drinking water as health and environmental issues have been raised in the use and production of desalinated water.
Being a water-scarce country, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is the largest producer of desalinated water on a global scale. The US-Saudi Council reported in 2019 that about 60% of Saudi’s water supply comes from desalination plants. Inasmuch as the process of desalination is energy-intensive, with fossil fuel being the main source of energy, the numerous desalination plants operating across the KSA account as major contributors of greenhouse gas emissions.
While only less than 40% of the water supply in Saudi are sourced from groundwater, this natural source is not without issues. In localities that receive groundwater as supply, citizens have been warned against the regular drinking of tap water. Health authorities warn that the country’s groundwater contains high levels of fluoride, exceeding the recommended safe level of 0.7 to 1.2 milligram per liter.
While tooth decay is the most common health problem attributed to high fluoride levels, newer studies revealed that increased intakes of fluoride can also adversely affect bone and neurological developments.
Why Desalinated Tap Water is Deemed Unsafe for Drinking
Drinking desalinated tap water is also not recommended, since the potability of the supply pumped by desalination plants suffer from three major issues: taste, appearance and storage.
Majority of Saudi Arabians find the taste and appearance of desalinated water unpleasant. However, desalination plants find it impractical to apply additional treatments and processes to improve and correct such issues. After all. only about one (1) percent of the country’s population drink desalinated tap water.
Local Saudi governments have tried to convince their citizens that desalinated tap water is safe to drink. Assessment reports have been disseminated to show that the physicochemical and organoleptic properties meet the recommended parameters for safety.
However, in many neighborhoods in Jeddah, where homes and residential buildings are more than 20 years old, desalinated tap water coming out of water systems are definitely unfit for drinking. Tap water coming out of water systems appear unpleasant due to presence of impurities.
Saline Water Conversions Corporation (SWCC), the company mainly responsible for the treatment of Saudi Arabia’s seawater contend that contamination occurs at point of storage; in water tanks that are poorly maintained and in buildings with piping systems that are in a state of decay. The SWCC maintains that water being pumped by desalination plants are 100% guaranteed safe for drinking.
Apparently, residents in newer amd upscale residential areas in Jeddah have not encountered water contamination problems. Still, in order to avoid getting their tap water contaminated by sludge and insects that find ways to get inside the tanks, building landlords see to it that their water tanks are regularly cleaned by a reputable tank cleaning company like wghsaada.
Why Saudi Bottled Drinking Water is Not Safe Either
While bottled drinking water is considered as a the safer alternative to desalinated tap water, the Consumer Protection Agency in Saudi warns citizens that not all bottled water available in the market are safe to drink.
Based on the agency’s investigations, 90% of the workers in bottled drinking water plants across the Saudi Kingdom are not properly trained, and have been observed to be in violation of sanitation protocols. As a result, 24% of the samples collected from such plants were contaminated with E.Coli bacteria while 16% were contaminated with fecal coliform.