Minister of Water Dr. Ghazi Al-Qusaibi, at a press conference yesterday, declared that his ministry's top priority is the formulation of a national plan for water. He confirmed that there will be no immediate increase in water tariffs, observing that his main focus will be on framing a strategic water plan in light of the country's increasing population and the age of the desalination plants. The former Ministry of Agriculture and Water, he said, had completed a number of studies on water consumption; these will be updated and a comprehensive plan devised in the near future, with emphasis on water rationing and ways of producing greater quantities of potable water. There are plans for renovation of the Kingdom's aging water desalination plants, and for these to be privatized. Desalinated water constitutes just over 50 percent of Saudi Arabia's consumption, with the rest from underground wells.
Dr. Al-Qusaibi went on to remark that water is not only a national but a global issue. Saudi Arabia, he said, ranks fourth in the world in average water use per citizen, after the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and Canada, with a daily 43 liters per capita use of water. Only 10 percent of the water consumption in the Kingdom, however, is for household and commercial use. The remaining 90 percent is for agriculture: for example, each liter of milk produced in Saudi Arabia requires 1,000 liters of water.