Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s biggest economy, has started producing purified water at the 27 billion-riyal ($7.2 billion) Ras al-Khair desalination plant on the Persian Gulf, the state-owned Saudi Press Agency said, citing Minister of Water and Electricity Abdullah Al-Hussayen.
The complex northwest of Jubail will be the world’s biggest seawater desalination facility with a production capacity of 1.025 million cubic meters (264 million gallons) of drinking water a day and 2,600 megawatts of electricity when fully built out after this first phase.
The Saudi government has allocated 16.6 billion riyals this year alone for desalination projects. The kingdom is expanding water works to supply the energy industry and a population that has quadrupled in 40 years to 30 million people. The desert country is the largest producer of desalinated water, attracting foreign investors including Veolia Environnement SA and Suez Environnement Co.
Last year, the Saline Water Conversion Corp. said it planned to build a major desalination plant in Rabigh on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast that will have the capacity to make 600,000 cubic meters of potable water a day. That project is expected to be completed in four years.