Saudi Arabia has always had an acute fresh water shortage problem. The problem has been so severe that a proposal was once considered to literally tow an iceberg from Antarctica all to way to the Kingdom for use as fresh water.
The practicality of constructing desalination plants to extract salt and other minerals from sea water became a much more practical plan, and 27 have now been constructed in the Kingdom, supplying 70% of the country's drinking water as well as more than 28 million megawatts of electricity.
A new desalination plant, hailed as being the world's largest, has now been completed in the new Jubail II Industrial Zone in the Kingdom's Eastern Province.
At a grand ceremony on April 28, King Abdullah pushed the buttons to allow the plant to begin operating. The plant, which cost 16 billion Saudi Ryals (US$ 3.8 billion) is expected to create 800,000 cubic meters of water for cities in the Eastern Province, as well as generate 2,750 megawatts of electricity.
Like other countries on the Arabian Peninsula, including many of the Emirate states, desalination has proven to be the most effective way of solving the country's water needs.
The existing desalination plants carry fresh water to Saudi cities by means of more than 2,500 miles of water pipes. In a land where summer midday temperatures often reach as high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit , having adequate amounts of electricity and fresh water is crucial to the Kingdom's development, as well as it's very survival.
Jubail Industrial City was nothing more than a sleepy fishing village 30 years ago when an ambitious project was begun to turn the area into an important industrial site.
Located on the shores of the Persian Gulf, and just north of the United Arab Emirates, the Jubal Industrial City site has grown into a prime industrial complex with the idea to help bring diversification to an economy that has had too much dependence on petroleum.
The complex has already brought many new economic opportunities to the area, especially for young Saudis, according to Mr. Abdulla Alhazza who owns several companies and other businesses in the area. The industrial projects, with their water and electricity needs supplied by desalination plants, should bolster the local economy and create a "new wave of optimism" according to another Saudi businessman, Imad Al-Dabai.
These projects give a strong indication that countries like Saudi Arabia are focused on creating a better future through projects like the Jubail desalination facility.