Water Shortage Angers Riyadh Residents

RIYADH, 16 June 2003 — Frequent interruptions of the water supply have led to acute water shortages in different parts of the city during the seasonable hot weather. In some areas residents have left their homes because of undependable supplies of water.

“The Ministry of Water and Electricity has assured us time and again that the problem of water scarcity is at the top of its agenda, but it has failed to address the grievance so far, despite its claim to be working hard to find a lasting solution,” said Ibrahim Al-Owain, an apartment owner.

A number of Saudis have expressed their anger at the continuing interruptions in the water supply just as the heat of summer arrived. On the other hand, the ministry claims that some 40 percent of the city’s daily water consumption can be saved if waste is eliminated. The problem is compounded by an increase of some 50,000 cubic meters in daily consumption during the summer.

Daily consumption in Saudi Arabia is high at 400 liters a day, compared to the average individual consumption in other countries where it ranges from 180 to 220 liters, according to a recent report.

Riyadh residents say that the problem has made their lives miserable. They called on the ministry to review the situation carefully and find solutions on a priority basis. They also complain about the rising price of water tankers, with large ones costing from SR180 to SR200 whereas the smaller ones are from SR120 to SR140. Desalinated seawater makes up about 70 percent of Riyadh’s water supply.

Owners of apartment buildings are the worst affected by the shortage. They say they suffer financial losses as they have to provide water for their tenants.

“I own a building with six apartments. There are children and old people living in the building and I have to provide several tankers at a cost of SR180 each. I call the water department every day, and every day they have a new excuse. They tell me that the problem will be solved within two to three days, but that is not happening,” Muhammad Omar, a landlord, told Arab News.

Residents in south Riyadh in particular expressed their anger openly. Mujib ibn Raza Siddiqui and Muhammad Qais of Al-Wazarat District said they had been storing water in large pails because of interrupted supplies over the last several weeks. “We have been getting water for only three or four days a week,” they said.

The water situation is little different in other parts of the city.

There is an urgent need to conserve water in Riyadh and in the country as a whole as water consumption is expected to exceed 20 billion cubic meters by 2010. The Kingdom ranks today as the world’s largest producer of desalinated water with 27 desalination plants in operation.

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