We must rationalize water consumption


Water is essential to life. Allah the Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an: “We made from water every living thing.” (21:30)

From the outset, man was keen to find new tools and develop new methods to get and store water because it was very important for his living and survival and still is. Different civilizations developed various methods to ensure a constant supply of water. The Greeks, for example, were the first to use ceramic pipes to carry water and for drainage. The Indians were the first to dig wells to get water in the Stone Age and they developed a water drainage system. The Romans were the first to dig canals to carry water and build reservoirs. During the early Islamic era, more methods were developed to get water and more wells were dug, such as Zubaydah Spring, which was dug at the request of Zubaydah, the wife of Caliph Haroun Al-Rasheed.

With regard to the water supply in Jeddah, those who lived here 60 years ago know the importance of water and how difficult it was to get water, especially drinkable water. The best quality of water was produced by condensers, the old method of desalination used at the time in Jeddah. It was extremely hard to get this water as it was expensive, and only the well-to-do could afford it. Most Jeddah residents used water tanks built under the house to store rainwater. They used this water for all purposes.

The situation changed after late King Abdulaziz ordered that water should be carried from the Wadi Fatima area. A project called Al-Ain Al-Aziziyah was implemented and all Jeddah’s neighborhoods were able to get water, thanks to water carriers, a group of men who carried water on their shoulders in buckets and delivered it to houses. Another method used to carry water to houses was large barrels placed on carts pulled by donkeys. An average family would need only one or two barrels.

However, when residents started to move from old houses to new villas, water consumption levels increased dramatically. Water was carried inside pipes to the new houses and the water tariffs were low because the project was an endowment in the name of King Abdulaziz. As the city expanded and the population increased, the water carried from Wadi Fatimah and nearby valleys was not sufficient. The government had to construct giant water desalination stations producing water in large quantities. Nevertheless, Jeddah and other cities and villages around the Kingdom still suffer from a water shortage because of the lifestyles of some people. These lifestyles should be changed in order for us to conserve water.

In general, it can be said that many Saudi households all over the country, Jeddah included, have changed their lifestyle over the past four or five decades. The World Health Organization says a person needs 83 liters of water; however, the average Saudi consumes 256 liters a day, three times the global average. Saudi authorities have used various awareness tools to educate people about the importance of conserving water and consuming less. The government established the National Water Company (NWC), which increased water consumption tariffs unreasonably; as a result, people complained to the higher authorities and the minister who imposed the high tariff was relieved of his position.

To date, some people still complain about the way some NWC employees treat them and at the changing amounts of bills and also at the SMS messages sent by the company, asking people to pay reasonable amounts sometimes and unreasonable amounts at other times without any justification in terms of water consumption.

We must all rationalize the consumption of water not only in Jeddah, but also Kingdom-wide. Raising the water consumption tariffs could be one of the options that help us achieve lower water consumption levels. However, the tariffs should be increased gradually and be commensurate with the level of consumption. The NWC has explained this before and called upon the general public to rationalization water consumption.

Some property owners have not paid water bills for years because they have not received any bills. Today, they are required to pay a lot of money, which they might find difficult to do. Naturally, disputes have arisen between property owners and the water company because the former cannot pay the amounts in arrears all of a sudden and at one go. Add to this, the fact that the water network carrying water to properties is old and might leak water underground.

— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com