During the last years, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA) initiated an ambitious program for the investigations of its major surface and groundwater resources, for the monitoring of these resources, for the study of hydrological resources (research side), and for the management of the resources (management side). While most of these tasks have been completed or are about to come to an end, the implementation of most of the necessary measures is in its very early stages and hampered by the increasing workload in the ministry. The still rapidly increasing population mainly counteracts the successes the Saudi government and MEWA have achieved in sustainable resources water management through its reforms. In addition, newer and more precise predictions of the effects of climate change indicate that Saudi Arabia will be affected more than had been assumed only a decade ago.
To make a transition from the current patterns of water administration to sound water management mode, two things must happen. First, there is strong need to strengthen the technical and organizational capacities of the MEWA to deal with the triple challenge of water exploitation and distribution (operational side), research for additional resources and cutting-edge technologies to satisfy the increasing demand (research side), and rigid control and administration of all water-related aspects (control side). Second, a sound information base covering data on groundwater availability, quality, withdrawal, and usage is about to be put in place.
The transformation of this information into an all-encompassing water resources management requires sustained long-term efforts, especially since the MEWA has limited capacity and experience in this field. An UNDP program has been designed to initiate a systematic process of capacity development to help in sustainable development of water resources and management of water-related affairs the Kingdom to ensure permanent and sufficient supply. The program has five pillars: Groundwater Resources Management; Secondary Water Resources; Water Supply Management; Public Relations; and Capacity Building, each represented by a working group.
Duties and Responsibilities
Surface water harvesting is considered a valuable and promising source for additional water resources for the Kingdom. Several dams are present, which will be a primary source for these resources through injection, mainly in wadi aquifers.
The ever-increasing rate of treated wastewater production by far outpaces the concepts for its storage and reuse. In coastal areas, large amounts of well-treated water are disposed of in the sea. There is an urgent need to convert these amounts of water into potential and accessible resources, e.g. through artificial storage.
MEWA has just initiated the search for suitable areas for Artificial Storage and Recharge (ASR) and Managed Artificial recharge (MAR). While the injection itself is not a technical problem, potential reservoirs are insufficiently known, especially as the chemistry and microbiology of the water to be stored is different from conventional water. Each reservoir requires special geotechnical and hydrogeological investigations to estimate risks and potential storage. In addition, the creation of storage reservoirs has to be accompanied by the establishment of exclusion zones, in which no private abstraction and no agriculture are permitted. Steps needed are: Search for suitable reservoirs, check of the socio-economic environment (property rights etc.), search for suitable solutions for reuse, installation of the infrastructure, and continuous monitoring.
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Groundwater Exploration Geologist/Hydrogeologist
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦