The rise of water desalination in Saudi Arabia

Due to a major overhaul of some existing plants and the introduction of new technologies, water desalination in Saudi Arabia has doubled over the past decade to reach 2.2 billion cubic meters in 2021, up from 1.1 billion cubic meters per year in 2010.

Jubail 2, one of the Kingdom’s largest water desalination plants that serve Riyadh and Jubail for instance has increased its annual production capacity by roughly 30 percent to 380 million cubic meters in 2021 from under 300 million cubic meters in 2014.

However, to meet the growing domestic demand for water, the desalination industry in the Kingdom is all poised to consider making another breakthrough. 

Jeddah became the first city in the 1900s to install two privately-owned distillation condensers to meet the city’s rising demand, followed by Yanbu and Jazan, the other coastal cities of the Kingdom.

These cities followed the same approach of developing their private seawater distillation condensers until the entire industry was nationalized and regulated under the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture in 1965.

As the method started gaining popularity in the region, the Saline Water Conversion Corp. was founded as an independent government entity in 1974 to promote and regulate water distillation operations in the Kingdom.

Although it started as costly and inefficient, it was crucial for the Kingdom’s increasing population needs. 

Further, its geographic location puts it at a disadvantage in accessing different types of water resources like, for example, rainfall.

Therefore, its options were limited to shallow and deep groundwater and desalinated water.