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Land Usage and Water Quality in Saudi Arabia

Land use refers to the total preparations, activities, and inputs individuals undertake in a specific land cover type. Alterations in land cover as well as management activities have been viewed as the key influencing aspects behind the change of hydrological systems, which tip to the change in the water quality (Nguyen et al., 2017). The impact on water quality depends on land-use intensity, majorly by residential, industrial, and commercial land use. Riyadh is one of the fastest-growing cities in the middle east, with about 6.5 million people. The land use in Riyadh has recently developed due to urbanization, for instance, skyscrapers at a dizzying rate. The process of the rapid urbanization of Riyadh has put hefty pressure on the ecosystem due to the exploitation of non-renewable sources like water aquifers, oil, and natural gas. This has led to the depletion of groundwater sources in Riyadh city, causing a water scarcity crisis. In Riyadh, water scarcity is also caused by the overuse of rare commodities in agriculture (Al-Saidi, 2020). Another water problem the city faces is salinity since the ocean is the alternative water source in the region. The paper, therefore, discusses the effect of land usage on water quality in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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Land Usage in the Area of the Study

The most common land uses in Riyadh are agricultural, transport, recreational, and housing. Among the three cities of Saudi Arabia, farming lands are commonly situated in Riyadh because of the accessibility of groundwater resources (Alqurashi & Kumar, 2019). In addition, many effects accompany the recreational activity in Riyadh on neighboring areas, including social, economic, ecological, and city dimensions. Figure 1 below shows the current land use activities in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Land use in Riyadh 
Figure 1: Land use in Riyadh 

Economic Impacts

Land is one of the three central elements of production in standard economics and a vital contribution to accommodation and food production. Therefore, land use is the pillar of agronomic economies, and it offers significant economic as well as social benefits. Urban development, industrial growth, and rigorous agricultural activities have brought about severe land cover change, impacting the economy (Alqurashi et al., 2019). Riyadh is experiencing rapid sprawl of low-density residential developments, especially in the city’s Northern and Eastern parts. The growth to the West is limited because of the alignment of the Wadi Hanifa and its escarpment edge. The town faces development obstacles to the South due to the high pollution caused by the large industrial areas, making the area unsuitable for housing and leisure. Urbanization is also linked with land use which has caused the shortage of water and deterioration of its quality because the groundwater sources are non-renewable (McGrane, 2016).

The oil economy and automobile dependency have driven the rapid spatial expansion the Saudi Arabia cities. Urbanization caused rapid economic growth in Saudi Arabia, which led to a population increase during the previous decade. The building of city infrastructures and shopping centers, schools, residential guesthouses, banks, mosques, and roads have also contributed to the urban spread in Saudi Arabian cities. Urbanization has altered rural societies in places; however, the urban sprawl has intruded to such a level that the community itself has been lost. City sprawl intensified revenue segregation and economic inequalities between suburbs and urban societies. Municipalities tend to gain lower-income inhabitants and lose the upper revenue population. In addition, urban development patterns in Saudi Arabia have abridged the critical mass of countryside necessary for the economic existence (Hanieh, 2018) of indigenous agricultural economies.

Water accessibility is essential to sustainable economic growth in any republic. In an arid nation with no permanent rivers like Saudi Arabia, groundwater is the key but an insufficient resource that is used astutely in residential, industrial, and farming areas. However, increased municipal and agricultural output is realized at a high economic cost as they are only achieved by using mostly non-renewable groundwater resources. The depletion of the water table has, in turn, increased pumping expenses, along with a declining aquifer-specific yield. Besides, groundwater used to grow highly subsidized agronomic commodities has happened simultaneously. The administration has been spending several million on desalination industries to meet urban and industrial demand for water.

Since its establishment, water supplies to Riyadh were founded on hand-dug boreholes. Then water levels started to fall, and water quality also began to depreciate due to seepage from the urban sewage. The water distribution network leaked about 160 000 m3/day, accounting for twenty-nine percent of the total leakage, constituting roughly seventeen percent of water imported to Riyadh (Mulongo, 2019). This seepage caused a serious economic and engineering impact on the management of the city as a lot of money was being spent on water treatment and statement management. The main urban areas in Saudi Arabia are presently engaged in enormous desalination, which comes at a very high price to augment insufficient groundwater supplies (Awadh et al., 2020). This investment was originally made in a semi-arid climate, a period in which oil proceeds seemed boundless.

Conversely, the period of boundless resources has ended. The policymakers are being forced to earnestly take the constraints on revenues obtainable for water improvement, which has negatively affected Saudi Arabia’s economy. It is predicted that in the forthcoming few decades, under the most acceptable socio-economic and climatic situation within which Saudi Arabia will experience serious water scarcity with correspondingly 20% of its present water financial plan in 2050 (Mazzoni et al., 2018). Under the worrying deficits occasioning severe anthropogenic withdrawals, Saudi Arabia could reach total exhaustion of groundwater sources (Awadh et al.,2020) in all aquifer systems in few years.

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Environmental Impact

Riyadh is an arid city located in a nation with inadequate water supplies. About 85% of water supplies in Saudi Arabia originate from groundwater categorized as a non-renewable water source (Bierkens & Wada, 2019). Excessive groundwater use in Saudi Arabia has created key problems such as exhaustion of aquifers and a decline of water quality (Bierkens & Wada, 2019). This has resulted in adverse environmental impacts coupled with negative social effects. Land use transformation is the most prevalent socio-economic factor driving alterations and degradation of environments. In Saudi Arabia, urban growth, agriculture, besides other human actions have considerably altered the country’s landscape. For instance, urban sprawl has resulted in many ecological concerns, such as water and air contamination as well as loss of animal habitat. In addition, city runoff often contains sediments, nutrients, as well as poisonous contaminants that can cause water contamination and a large disparity in streamflow and temperatures.

Anthropogenic activities are significantly changing the hydro-geochemical processes controlling the chemical features of groundwater chemistry in Saudi Arabia. These activities include increased urbanization, extreme withdrawal of groundwater and industrialized activities, dumping of untreated wastewater, fertilizers plus pesticides in agriculture, and leakage of landfills. All these activities result in water and soil pollution, compromising the natural habitat for living organisms. Due to less significant precipitation and a high degree of evapotranspiration in Saudi Arabia, the groundwater recharge rate is inconsequential, resulting in the salinization of the water (Mallick et al., 2021). Although seawater desalination in some areas of Saudi Arabia provides clean water, which is good for human health, the chemical discharges and by-products from the process negatively affect the environment.

The brine that is discharged from the seawater purification industrial unit is very concentrated and upsurges oceans’ salinity which is another danger to surrounding ecologies. Also, the quantity of energy needed to carry out the seawater purification is also accountable for air pollutant emissions, which intensifies climate alteration as more desalination factories are being put up to meet the water demand in Saudi Arabian municipalities. This is due to the excessive drawing of water from the aquifers that have resulted in the depletion of groundwater sources. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Aquastat data from 2010-20012, Saudi Arabia has limited water resources compared with the global averages, as shown in Figure 2 below.

Saudi Arabian Water Scarcity 
Figure 2: Saudi Arabian Water Scarcity 

Air pollution in Saudi Arabia is originally from crude oil refineries resulting from greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, causing an increment in the temperature. Urban cities also produce greenhouse gases due to industrialization that pollutes the environment. These pollutants cause global warming due to the increase as a result of the increased temperature of the region. These alterations have considerably affected the quality as well as the accessibility of water as the hydrological sequence is closely associated with climate change. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s desertification is also another environmental problem that the country is experiencing. Air contamination in Saudi Arabia also impacts desertification because of the snowballing temperature. Climatic change in Saudi Arabia has contributed to water shortage through the amplified temperatures and lengthy drought eras that stress water demand (Odhiambo, 2017) and obtainable water sources.

Pollution is one of the major environmental concerns that groundwater sources in Saudi Arabia face. Groundwater contamination comes from several sources, and this occurs when unsafe substances get into the soil. Agricultural activities pollute groundwater as insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers used for farming soak into the ground, decreasing the water quality. Because Riyadh is a fast-growing city in Saudi Arabia, manufacturing industries are also developing to meet the population demands and culprits of environmental pollution. This is because several different toxic chemicals are used in manufacturing the products. If not appropriately disposed of, they may seep into the ground, sopping down into the groundwater table. Air contamination is a worldwide problem, the harmful impacts of which also distress Saudi Arabia. Some of the Saudi Arabian cities are categorized by declining air and water quality and its related impacts.

The pollution factors in Saudi Arabian cities are related to environmental degradation, which affects the quality of life then impends economic as well as social stability (Charfeddine & Mrabet, 2017). Some Saudi municipalities are already experiencing ecological degradation brought by climate changes. In addition, the snowballing frequency and severity of droughts are witnessed across the country. Furthermore, land use also directly influences desertification; it manifests itself through poor management, land overuse, and mechanized agriculture. Besides, bad irrigation practices, inadequate systems, land-use policies, and mismanagement of the input and omission of soil improvement are salon series of natural factors that influence land degradation in Saudi Arabia despite the region being semi-arid.

Social Impacts

Expectedly, weather and water scarcity problems also interfere with food sources as low water accessibility has direct negative effects on food generation and hefty precipitation, increased flooding, which also causes influences socialization. Water scarcity in Saudi Arabia affects families and their communities negatively. People struggle in the arid rural area for a drink of clean water; as families flee drought and relocate to cities, the community views its social fabric stretched by rivalry for the basics of life, which causes famine. Evidence shows that about 18% of the Arab inhabitants still lack access to freshwater water (Levin et al., 2018). The majority of these underserved persons live in lower-income countries. Without sufficient clean and easily accessible water, they become locked in poverty for generations. Inequalities are particularly large between countryside and urban areas in water supply services, though many of the region’s which include major cities, also face water scarcities.

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Water scarcity issues are indispensable from other critical concerns such as food security besides energy. Struggle over increasingly inadequate water resources sternly challenges Saudi Arabian capacity to feed its increasing populations. Ineffective attempts to attain food self-sufficiency are behind much of the over-exploitation of water in farming. Failure of these attempts has led to Saudi Arabia’s government import more food which has resulted in heavy taxation on citizens to access basic needs.

The depletion of groundwater sources in Saudi Arabia has caused an increase in competition between agriculture and industry for water usage (Bamousa & El Maghra, 2016). This has greatly undermined and affected domestic food production, which seems to be increasing political pressure bone by the escalation of climate change citizens seeking humanitarian support. Water is also crucial to hygiene which is vital for health, so several households in Saudi cities have a tendency to deteriorate due to water scarcity. Beyond this, water shortage also increases food costs which unreasonably affects the most vulnerable Saudi Arabian population. Furthermore, developing nations like Saudi Arabia have been affected by weather transformation and water-linked health concerns and are also the most economically underprivileged for adaptation and moderation.

What is Saudi Arabia Doing to Solve the Problems Technically?

The link between land usage and water quality also affects water availability in Saudi Arabia. But, the nation has put numerous mitigation measures in place to help moderate the pressure on conventional water resources such as aquifers and groundwater. This is because the broad agronomic programs almost exhausted the non-renewable groundwater and depreciated water quality. As a result, the rates of water utilized by the city residents and agronomic sectors for crop production in Saudi Arabia appeared to be uneconomical.

Plans have been put in place to create a comprehensive but effective water transmission system. Therefore, the Saudi Arabian administration has simplified the water sector’s monitoring regime by implementing a planned water policy. These strategies include the first desalination of seawater to ensure adequate supply to both agricultural and domestic usage. In addition, it has been recommended to reduce water shortage problems in regions with access to salty groundwater and seawater. In Saudi Arabia, salt-free water is at present the main source of urban water supplies in a number of heavily inhabited arid cities (Jones et al., 2019). Powered by oil, it has been projected that approximately half of local oil production in Saudi Arabia is now utilized for purification.

The second strategy involves downsizing water usage in the cities and in the agricultural sector. In 2019, Saudi Arabia established a national program for rationalizing water consumption within its territory, setting determined targets that comprise of slashing usage by about 24% in 2020 and some 43% by the end of the next decade (World Bank, 2019). The lunched Qatrah program aimed to reduce water intake as part of the ministry’s effort to achieve water sustainability and minimize the depletion of groundwater sources. Through the Qatrah pan, the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture aimed to decrease daily per capita usage from 263 liters to about 150 by 2030 (Algarni, 2018). It encourages the importance of water management as it recommends methods for downsizing industrial and domestic consumption and educates people on the significance of modifying their water consumption.

According to Dr. Al Zara, the advisor, and director of the water project monitoring officer at the ministry of environment, Saudi Arabian, a total of 81.9% of non-renewable water intake came in the agronomic sector in 2016. On the other hand, the same year, the industrial, as well as urban segments, accounted only for five and twelve percent of non-renewable intake. This shows that the agricultural segment consumes the most water, necessitating implementing several initiatives that reduce water consumption. Therefore, the ministry has come up with the Qatrah program to moderate the amount of water utilized in the farming sector and upsurge the amount of water accessible to the municipal sector (Algarni et al., 2018) by 2030.

The existing desalination technology in Saudi Arabia to provide clean water requires a considerable amount of energy in fossil fuels, making the process expensive. In addition, the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions besides brine wastewater produced by desalination plants pose noteworthy environmental challenges (Mannan et al., 2019). To minimize these environmental impacts caused by the desalination process, the Saudi Arabian government is weaning off fossil fuel and making great steps in solar development. The Saudi government has constructed the world’s first full-size solar-powered desalination plant to minimize environmental pollution caused by the greenhouse gases generated by the plants (Shahsavari & Akbari, 2018). Also, it has developed an alternative technology that integrates a solar-driven salt removal system that is convenient and produces drinkable water using a membrane distillation process.

Even though thermal desalination is still being utilized, reverse osmosis is the most preferred technology, adopted mainly due to lower costs and a greater rate of portable water conversion from seawater. Saudi government released the vision 2030 forecast strategy to upsurge its installed capability through the period between 2018 to 2030, which consistss of discharging those who reach their expected design life expectations (Abas et al., 2019). Currently, the country has more energy-efficient seawater purification companies to be custom-built. The regular water production and forms of technologies applied in salt removal companies in 2017 revealed that about four million cubic meters are generated every day using water distillation technologies (Tiwari & Sahota, 2017), like multi-stage flushing.

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The third strategy that the Saudi Arabian government has employed to improve the water quality and availability involves water recycling and reuse. Over sixty-six billion dollars in lasting capital investments have been devoted for water besides sanitation programs in Saudi Arabia in the next ten years as the government targets to achieve a hundred percent reuse of wastewater from municipalities with five thousand inhabitants. Generally, Saudi Arabia also aims to recycle over sixty-five percent of its water by 2020 and above ninety percent by 2040 by changing its present and intended wastewater recycling assets into water supplies across all segments (Baig et al., 2020). According to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabian (KSA) report, water demand is anticipated to double over the subsequent two decades with fast population growth and increased sprawl in Saudi Arabia. However, a shortage already occurs in the six main cities currently, with eighty percent of the Saudi Arabia water supply coming from groundwater aquifers, and the sources are expected to last only for another 15 years (Tiwari et al., 2017). Recent research concluded that Saudi Arabia faces austere water scarcity and fulfills demand with non-renewable groundwater. For that reason, the government has prioritized water reuse and recycling and considers water likewise to other valuable planned resources. Water recycling and reuse constitute one of the country’s seventh plan goals to decrease the growth in non-renewable groundwater intake and stabilize groundwater consumption. The domestic and agricultural wastewater is treated being recycled, and reused for farming, irrigation, and other purposes. This course has one of the planned solutions envisioned to supplement unconventional water resource utilization in Saudi Arabia.

The climate impacts as a result of global heating point to further strain on Saudi water resources, thus decreasing the amount of clean water available for both environment and irrigation. Consuming reclaimed water as a substitute of non-renewable groundwater would moderate the pressure on the environment. Implementing the improved water conservation besides reuse strategy across the oil plus natural gas sector in Saudi Arabia aims to preserve up to twenty-nine percent of the overall industrial and water drawings at costs. Figure 3 below shows a summary of wastewater recycling in Saudi Arabia.

Wastewater recycling in Saudi Arabia 
Figure 3: Wastewater recycling in Saudi Arabia 

To minimize water wastage, the government is also working on policies that will appropriately price water. This is because water pricing plus rights go together with users questioning the benefits of higher charges. According to specialists from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, raising prices helps lower waste and pollution (Singh and Sharma, 2016). Therefore, the Saudi government utilizes this strategy to help prevent and make people change their water usage. It will also encourage community-based governance and regulation to give the communities the statures to advocate for water reuse and reduction of water wastage.

The most vital issues concerning public health is that the impacts of weather change and water shortage disproportionately affect deprived communities as well as poorer persons of society. Making attempts to address this issue, the Saudi Arabian government has greatly embraced intervention strategies that improve access to fresh water and hygiene priorities because they are the main issues that mostly contribute to the burden of the disease. Currently, Saudi Arabia sits at about 93% access to improved drinking water (Tlili et al., 2020), and improved sanitation.

Saudi Arabia has adopted Adsorption Desorption Desalination (ADD) technology to mitigate water scarcity in the region (Alnajdi, Wu, and Kaiser, 2020). It is utilized as a purification method for mixtures such as saltwater into two watercourses. The adsorption-desorption procedure has also been applied in various uses, like the separation and salty water desalination processes. The utilization of the adsorption method in saltwater and briny water purification began after a long period of utilizing it in freezing systems. The method has been reflected as an effective substitute for power-driven and thermal compression gas constituents in freezing systems by premium high temperature adsorption systems to produce a freezing effect. In Saudi Arabia, ADD technology has been adopted through decentralization to mitigate the economic, environmental, and social impacts caused by water scarcity (Alnajdi et al., 2020). Devolution of water supply generation in Saudi Arabia was suggested to be the most viable solution. This is because its application would decrease production and supply water costs, moderate carbon emissions, and advance local resources.

The Adsorption Desorption Desalination cycle with mass plus heat salvage and the hybrid conformation is expected to meet the fresh demand of the intended Saudi cities. For instance, it could be operated at temperatures oscillating from 50-70 degrees Celsius and generate about four cubic meters to fifteen cubic meters of water per tons of silica (Alnajdi et al., 2020). Moreover, it is utilizing the Adsorption Desorption Desalination method to supply Abha municipal and the neighboring cities instead of the strategic seawater reverse osmosis in 2025 (Alnaldi et al., 2020), as shown in Table 1 below. Therefore, it is expected to eradicate the conduit pumping expenses and decrease the production’s energy cost as well as carbon productions by more than seventy percent. Table 1 below shows the probable impact of utilizing Adsorption Desorption Desalination and regionalization on energy intake and carbon dioxide discharges on current methods in Saudi Arabia by the Saline Water Conversion Corporation.

Table 1: Application of Adsorption Desorption Desalination method

Existing Plan Proposed Plan
Transmission Pipeline + Modern Plants Decentralized-ADD without Pipeline
Municipality Company Size (km)
Height (m)
Water Flow (M3/day) Water-Transmission Energy Cost Emissions
(tones CO2/year)
Water-Production Energy Price Emissions
(tones CO2/year)
Makkah Shoaibah 90
240
550,000 82.9 653,943 12.8 101,671
Madinah Yanbu 162
632
450,000 99.5 784,530 10.5 83,186
Abha Shoqaiq 106
2075
101,000 24.5 189,165 2.4 17, 385
Riyadh Jubail 390
622
850,000 291.6 2,391,034 22.2 175,615

Results

Water is a valued resource in Saudi Arabia because it is extensively used for home, industrial, and irrigational purposes. However, Saudi Arabia is well-recognized to be one of the driest nations with limited water sources. This makes water scarcity a major crisis in cities like Riyadh since the region majorly depends on scarce water sources to meet its population demand. Moreover, being an arid region, Saudi Arabia majorly depends on the groundwater and aquifers for water supply which are being depleted due to over withdrawal. Furthermore, the rapid urbanization growth in Riyadh and other Saudi cities also poses a challenge and stress to the scarce commodity. This is because the shallow groundwater near Riyadh is becoming contaminated because of fertilizers in agriculture, industrial waste discharge, and domestic sewage region. All these are a result of land-use activities, which are in turn have affected the water quality in the region.

These sources are related to improbability and have also affected the climatic conditions in the region. Therefore, the administration of Saudi has put in place a multifaceted approach to address these challenges and provide water to its citizens and encourage its prudent use. While the country is no alien to water shortage, modern intake and waste due to urban sprawl have raised the stake of this valuable resource. These concerns have already excessively affected the poor in the region. For example, in some regions in Saudi Arabia, more than half of the water consumed surpasses sustainable amounts, and about 82% of wastewater is not treated for reuse. These levels point out that Saudi Arabia is consuming more than four times the water that it recycles on average. As a result, the two main water sources in the region are quickly declining groundwater as well as the sea.

To persevere this scarce commodity, Saudi Arabian government heavily relies on desalination to provide its citizens with fresh water. The country has devoted hundreds of millions of petrodollars in the salt removal process to ensure the durability of its water supply. This has made Saudi Arabia a major producer of more portable water and has helped curb the crisis. In addition, desalination has alleviated some pressure on the aquifer and the depletion of the non-renewable water sources in the region. Through desalination, the Saudi Arabian government has ensured that more than 97% of its people have dependable access to potable water (Gude, 2016). According to statistics, about 1.9 million cubic meters of water were generated by desalination companies in Saudi Arabia in 2019 (Gude, 2016). The Saudi government’s desalination plant water production between 2010-2019 is shown in Figure 4 below.

Volume of Desalinated Water 
Figure 4: Volume of Desalinated Water 

Furthermore, wastewater treatment in Saudi Arabia has constituted an increased water source because of the escalating water intake in municipal areas. The recycled wastewater is used mostly for irrigation, groundwater recharge, and industrial processes. In the urban sector, the energy and economic costs of desalted water production, as well as transportation comparative to local wastewater recycling, were modeled for six inland populations such as Riyadh and Medina. The use of wastewater recycled reduced the cost of production and transportation compared to water obtained through desalination. Most significantly, for all of the inland cities such as Khamis, Riyadh, Medina, Taif, and Mecca, the provision of desalted water was energy-intensive compared to the secondary recycling of local wastewater. The treatment and reuse of wastewater produced in these inland cities reduced desalted and groundwater drawings by almost eight percent of the total urban water withdrawals in 2009 (Jones et al., 2019). Over the years, secondary wastewater treatment has resulted in significant cost savings for all Saudi Arabia cities. In Riyadh, pooled water savings across the oil plus natural gas segments due to the industrial water recycling, reuse, and conversation measures taken after the Qatrah program has reduced the industrial water withdrawals by 29% (Jones et al., 2019). Reducing water drawings and maximizing water reuse across the energy sector have reduced industrial water consumption within Saudi Arabia.

Implementation of solar desalination has become critical in supplying freshwater across Saudi Arabia. Various desalination plants are now built with new technologies to overcome water scarcity and environmental pollution. Solar desalination has reduced greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere; thus, it has minimized air pollution in Saudi Arabia as it does not use fossil fuels. It has also reduced the cost incurred for producing water through the use of renewable energy.

The Saudi Arabian government’s Qatrah program has already yielded optimistic results. The domestic, agricultural and industrial water demand has started to decline, and it is projected to continue up to the year. When compared to water conservation programs that have been in place since 2010, the total water demand is expected to reduce to approximately 12,000 million cubic meters per year in 2030 (Alnajdi et al., 2020). The significant reduction mostly results from reducing agricultural water consumption by about 3.7% yearly (Alnajdi et al.). However, the domestic, as well as industrialized water demand, increased by about a thousand-million-meter cube per year. As a result, this program is already reducing the overreliance on the scarce water resources in Saudi Arabia.

Discussion and Recommendations

Saudi Arabia faces a severe water scarceness problem since demand far surpasses the maintainable yield of conservative and non-conventional water sources. The region has witnessed an urban sprawl over the past few years, which has posed a major challenge to its scarce resource. This is because urban land use has a greater impact on water quality by altering hydrological processes. Therefore, understanding the relationship between water quality and land use has facilitated water management in Saudi Arabia through various strategies. The over-dependent on groundwater has created major challenges like the decline of water quality and depletion of aquifers in Saudi Arabia. These challenges have subjected the government to some economic consequences along with negative social and environmental effects. The Saudi government actions to prevent and minimize the impacts of deterioration of water quality and depletion of groundwater due to land use activities.

Land use activities such as agriculture, industrialization, and urbanization have been linked with groundwater contamination in Riyadh (Bamousa & El Maghraby, 2016). For that reason, refining irrigation effectiveness, observing and keeping groundwater sources, and reducing the demand for water in the Saudi region are necessary to conserve the endangered water sources. Water shortage is inextricably connected to human rights, and adequate access to safe drinking water is a priority for worldwide development. The excessive use of groundwater has stemmed in a sharp drop in the water levels in the non-renewable sources, which in certain aquifers dropped more than two hundred meters during the last two eras. In addition, several springs a shallow aquifer have dried out due to excessive pumping in the eastern regions of Saudi Arabia. This has also created disturbance of the stability between aquifers, resulting in the seepage and deteriorated quality water from different aquifers.

The water crisis in Saudi Arabia has been addressed with different approaches which some have given out positive results. To curb the water shortage in Saudi Arabia, the government has heavily invested in several desalination plants to meet its citizen’s water demands. Desalination technology is expensive, so it is only used where freshwater sources are not economically available. This strategy has helped the Saudi government address the problem of water crisis though not completely, by creating new water supplies through the extraction of salt from seawater and making it suitable for human consumption. Desalination technologies have been particularly successful in Saudi Arabia in conserving the non-renewable supplies of fossil water. Despite the benefits of desalination, plants pose significant human and environmental challenges due to the emission of greenhouse gasses and brine water as by-products (Jones et al., 2019). However, the Saudi government’s switch to solar desalinated plants has reduced air pollution and energy costs used to spend on fossil fuels.

In Riyadh, wastewater has been a valuable resource since its population density has been growing rapidly, and the water supplies are limited. The wastewater has been reclaimed and reused for crop irrigation and industrial purposes. When utilized in agriculture, it conserves energy and cuts the cost of freshwater pumping. In Saudi Arabia, it has been proven that municipal recycling wastewater for farming provides adequate nutrients, thus lowering fertilization costs (Ofori et al., 2020). Therefore, wastewater recycling should be expanded because it is a promising strategy for alleviating water demand while minimizing the health risk of farmers and consumers and preserving the scarce water sources in the region.

Moving forward, the Saudi government should consider urban and industrial water reuse along with purification as options for water supply. Due to the developing necessity to conserve non-renewable resources and moderate greenhouse gas emissions, the Saudi policymakers should weigh in more heavily on desalination’s energy and ecological costs. In addition, the government should introduce tariff systems to make the public more cognizant of using water resourcefully and encouraging consumers who fall into the higher groups of consumption to limit their usage. Increasing water charges for groundwater as well as desalinated water to more sufficiently represent the cost of water supply and inspire conservation.

However, water recycling and reuse may be more appropriate for inland cities like Riyadh. This is because domestic and industrial water reuse can substantially reduce water withdrawals, preserve non-renewable aquifers and minimize dependence on desalination. Besides, the water consumption rates should be abridged by a policy of modification in agricultural practices, besides exhaustive water plants should not be cultivated. In addition, water pricing for disproportionate usage should be taxed on those consuming this scarce commodity beyond the crop irrigation water rations.

In summary, land use offers several economic as well as social benefits although, it comes at a significant cost to the environment. The water source sources in Saudi Arabian government have been consciously reducing over the past years surpassing recharge amounts. This has been associated with excessive withdrawal of water, majorly for irrigational usage. Deterioration of water quality in arid regions like Saudi Arabia has a direct link with land use activities such as urbanization and agricultural irrigation. As a result, the region is experiencing water scarcity, thus facing considerable problems in meeting the agricultural, urban, and industrial needs for water. The effect of land use in Saudi Arabian water quality has intensified the region’s water crisis, causing economic, ecological, and social challenges. There is an urgent need for more effective sustainable water management coupled with increasing the water supply from renewable resources. Like most environmental and geopolitical issues, the poor might have suffered if the Saudi Arabian government had not addressed the water crisis challenge.

However, the Saudi government has come up with various mechanisms to mitigate the challenges caused by water scarcity. The Saudi government has heavily invested in water desalination plants to meet the water supply-demand of its citizens by 2030. It has also come up with Qatrah program to help educate the public on the importance of water conservation by minimizing their respective usage. Besides, the government is also advocating for wastewater treatment and reuse to help provide water for irrigation and use solar-powered desalination plants to minimize environmental pollution. Despite all the plans to mitigate water crisis in the region, the Saudi Arabian government also needs to come up with several policies like water tariffs to make its citizens cut down their water usage and embrace the conversation.

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