The increased demand has already caused water shortages in Jiddah and Riyadh. Three plants at Yanbu’, Ras al-Khair and Jubail will add 1.7mn cmd – state-owned Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC), which produces most of the country’s desalinated water, currently produces 3.5mn cmd. In 2011 the SWCC governor said Saudi Arabia plans to invest $106bn in building new desalination plants.

The kingdom is studying how to slow growth of hydrocarbon burning by these plants, which are energy intensive. Its options include: replacing its highly energy inefficient multi-stage flash (MSF) desalination plants as they retire with those using reverse osmosis (RO); using more efficient power and steam generation plants at the desalination plant sites and deploying renewable energy. It also has programs to reduce water demand by: developing agriculture – which consumes the lion’s share of all water – that is more appropriate for the country’s climate; recycling more waste water; and preventing losses through leaking pipes. (CONTINUED - 865 WORDS)