All individuals have the right to clean and safe water. As the saying goes, ‘water is life’, and no one can live without it, therefore it is the responsibility of the government to provide its citizens with this basic need. Water is a source of life and the lack of it can cause serious health complications that can lead to death (Biswas, Rached & Third World Centre for Water Management, 2008). Without it, there is no food because for food crops to grow it have to be powered by water. Similarly, various types of food cannot be cooked and that would lead to hunger. For proper hygiene to prevail, the application of water is inevitable. The absence of the commodity leads contraction and the spread of water borne diseases like cholera, which can claim the lives of many people within a very short time. An approximation of one billion people in the world cannot access clean and safe drinking water and over a million children continue to die annually because of low levels of hygiene. Hygiene is not well observed when there is no safe water and good sanitation. Various International aid agencies and non-governmental organizations are working hand in hand with the governments and the local communities in different parts of the world to ensure that people enjoy their right to water.
The availability of the commodity is highly determined by climatic and weather conditions (Biswas, Rached & Third World Centre for Water Management, 2008). Some areas receive a lot of rain and never lack water throughout the year while others often suffer the consequences of long periods of drought. Despite the conditions, people have the right to demand safe water from their government. It does not matter whether it is dry or not, the leaders should do the best they can to ensure that their people do not die of thirst. In various parts of the world especially within the African and the Asian continents, people consume less than the required amount of water in a day (Biswas, Rached & Third World Centre for Water Management, 2008). This is because they have to carry it over long a distance, which is too tiresome. Therefore they have to try as much as possible to limit the use to avoid going back again for it soon. In most cases, it is the women who bear the burden of having to walk long distances to collect water. The kind of water they end up bringing home is many times not of the best quality.
Approximately, half of the population in developing countries is today suffering health complications arising from scarcity of water. Children are the most affected as such health problems comprise their second biggest killer. They also miss to attend school for many days due to the conditions. In short, the shortage of water has affected the education of many children. As a result, the world has failed in getting skilled labor as those who miss classes end up scoring poor grades and fail to take up major courses in the universities. Most of the schools do not have water supply and sanitation facilities. Girls are the most affected by such situations as they chose not to use the dirty toilets. They avoid taking water to control the rate of urination and that leads to dehydration. During their menstruation periods, they miss schools because there is no proper sanitation and enough water to maintain the high levels of cleanliness needed during that particular time (Biswas, Rached & Third World Centre for Water Management, 2008). European countries are far much ahead as individuals consume between 200 to 300 liters of water in a day compared to African and Asian countries where by some people use less than ten liters.
Human right to water
Kofi Anan, the former secretary general of the United Nations stated that ‘access to safe water is a fundamental human need and therefore a basic human right’ (Salman & McInerney-Lankford, 2004). He is one of the public figures who have done a lot to make other ignorant leaders understand the importance of passing the human right to water. The right to water was formally acknowledged by 122 countries in the General Assembly after intense negotiations in the year 2010. Therefore, the United Nations has recognized the right to water as a basic human right. One of the greatest failures of the 20th century development was the under provision of water as a basic commodity. The countries that voted in support of the policy in the year 2010 should be given credit since they made a decision, which is of great significance to human life. These countries include Germany, Switzerland, Norway, china, France, and Belgium among others. The work that was done by Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque cannot also be overlooked. She is recognized for providing recommendations to governments, the United Nations, and other stakeholders regarding the policy (Salman & McInerney-Lankford, 2004).
According to the right, the water should not only be clean and safe, it should also be sufficient and continuous for personal and domestic use. The world health organization states that fifty to a hundred liters per person are needed each day in order to meet most uses and avoid a variety of related health complications. By saying that the water should be safe, it means that it must be free from chemical, radioactive substances and micro organisms that can pose danger to the health of an individual (Salman & McInerney-Lankford, 2004). The measure of the safety of water can be set by the national or local standards for drinking water safety or both of them. The basis for the development of the national standards is provided by the World Health organization and it gives guidelines for the quality of drinking water. The resolution passed by the general assembly explains that water should be physically accessible meaning that it should be within the vicinity of all the human dwelling places. It should be made available in or near education centers, work places, and health institutions. WHO demands that the distance between the source of water and the people should not exceed one thousand meters and should it is reached within thirty minutes (Salman & McInerney-Lankford, 2004). This has only been applicable in very few areas in the whole world.
The water provided to the citizens should also be acceptable meaning that it should be of an accepted color, odor, and taste as required for each kind of use. Some states have made water available to their citizens but it is not of the right color and taste. In many parts of the sub Saharan Africa, people share water sources with domestic and wild animals (Biswas, Rached & Third World Centre for Water Management, 2008). In Asia, women walk an approximation of six kilometers in order to access water, which even does not meet the set standards. The color of the water is brown and the people take their animals to water in the same water points since the main sources of water are small manmade lakes. Because the water sources are unprotected, the animals make the water dirty by stepping, urinating, and defecating on it. As a result, these sources of water become breeding grounds for pathogens and therefore posing a very great danger to human life. The water provided by the government should be affordable to all people. The United Nations Development Programme is of the view that the part of the household income used on water costs should not be more than three percent (Biswas, Rached & Third World Centre for Water Management, 2008). No one should fail to access clean water because of its cost; the government should make sure that it provides free water or else make it as cheap as possible.
Although no state voted against the making of the right to water explicit by the general assembly, forty-one countries abstained (Salman & McInerney-Lankford, 2004). One of them was the U.S.A, which has been on the forefront in the promotion of human rights. It defended itself by claiming that the resolution did not describe a right to water in reflection to the existing international law. There had been a standing debate as to whether the human right to water was a right by its own or was derived from other human rights. Although the right has already been passed, a debate is still going on concerning its nature. In fact, water is the source of all life and the right to clean and pure water should have been declared long before some other rights. It is surprising why it had to take this long well knowing that without water there is no life. Just the way there is the right to food, there should be the right to water since the two go together and the absence of one can be fatal (Salman & McInerney-Lankford, 2004). Those who do not agree with the right mean that such a right should not be there. The implications of that are that the governments of such countries will do less or nothing to make sure that all it citizens receive a sufficient supply of clean and safe water. Therefore, many people would suffer and succumb to various health complications that arise because of shortage of water.
People have the right to live and everything possible should be done in order to promote this right. To ensure that the right to live is respected is the safe water should be supplied. In order to sustain life and health, people should not be discriminated in accessing safe water for drinking and carrying out other domestic chores like personal and household hygiene (Salman & McInerney-Lankford, 2004). Personal and domestic water uses should always come before other uses if there is no sufficient water supply. The government of a country should see to it that its citizens get enough safe water. It should be affordable to all people whether rich or not and should be within the reach of all the individuals. It should act appropriately to ensure that contaminated water does not get into the supply.
In order to enjoy all the other human rights, the human right to water should be ultimately observed (Biswas, Rached, & Tortajada & Third World Centre for Water Management, 2008). This is because water is necessary to produce food and human beings have the right to adequate food. In order to keep high levels of hygiene and prevent water related diseases water has to be applied. That observes the human right to good health. Similarly, water is needed for economic activities like agriculture. That respects the human right to gain a living by work. In order to take part in certain cultural activities the commodity has to be used too and that makes people enjoy that right. The list is endless, in short, water is needed for survival and without it, and there is no life at all.
There are situations where by water sources are shared by different countries. For example, the river Nile that is the longest river in Africa serves more than three countries (Biswas, Rached & Third World Centre for Water Management, 2008). The main source of the river, the Lake Victoria is also shared by different countries, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. In such a situation, the law requires that none of the involved states should interfere with the enjoyment of the commodity by the other states. They should not contaminate or block the water from reaching the other nations. When the water is contaminated from one end, it would lead to contraction of water related diseases by people in the same country and even outside. Blocking the movement of water would lead to scarcity of the commodity in other areas. If this happens, human dignity is undermined and many people would end up losing their lives.
The advantages and implications of this policy
The human right to water has been politicized. Many political aspirants base their campaigns on promising people that they would provide the best water to everyone. They criticize the current leaders for failing to observe the policy and therefore declaring them unfit for the posts. As a result, a lot of development has taken place in the provision of the commodity as leaders seek to prove that they are competed and should be re elected. That has promoted health and prolonged the lives of many people as diseases such as cholera and malnutrition have been controlled (Salman & McInerney-Lankford, 2004).
The resolution that was passed by the United Nations general assembly calls upon international organizations and states to help countries be able to deliver clean water to their citizens (Biswas, Rached & Third World Centre for Water Management, 2008). This help will be technology wise and more so in the form of financial resources. When this happens, many people in the world are going to get this basic commodity. The international community has been encouraged to work hard in order to satisfy basic human needs since that would work toward achieving the millennium development goals. As a result, many people are going to access the commodity and that is going to control diseases that arise due to scarcity of water. It will also promote the right to life since death resulting from such diseases will have been controlled.
Many organizations have come on board to ensure that people in the whole world get access to clean, safe and affordable water. They include international organizations like UNHCHR (United Nations high commission on human rights), UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) (Salman & McInerney-Lankford, 2004). Involved also are governmental cooperation agencies such as United Kingdom’s cooperation agency, German cooperation agency, and the Swiss development cooperative. Humanitarian NGO’s like the action against hunger, developmental NGO’s like the fresh water Network and human rights NGO’s are also taking part (Salman & McInerney-Lankford, 2004). All this organizations are working towards the same goal and there is hope that with time the commodity will no longer be scarce to people.
When clean and safe water is brought within the reach of everybody, the world will have become a better place to live in. children will no longer miss school and as a result, the world shall produce the best human resources. Women will not have to walk long distances in search of the commodity and various diseases shall be brought under control. Therefore, the world’s mortality rate will significantly go down (Salman & McInerney-Lankford, 2004). People are joining movements that are seeking to ensure that clean and safe water is made available to all people. One of the movements is the blue planet project, which is working towards ensuring that water systems will be locally and democratically owned and controlled publicly with high levels of transparency. It also seeks to ensure that governments, the private industry, financial institution and others do not interfere with the human right to water.
Implementation of the policy
The process of implementation
The process of implementing any public policy usually follows a given order, which is acceptable to the whole country. Some policies are meant to cover a single country while others are meant to cover a number of countries. Other policies may be created and implemented to cover all nations. The human right to water is a policy that in many countries holds and is widely exercised. Implementation of any policy takes different shapes as well as forms in different cultures and organizational settings. In the era we live in today, life has become very much organizational such that people do not just live without any direction. In almost all the nations of the world, an organizational body leads in the general governance of a particular nation. This body in many cases is referred to as the government.
The government is the body that carries out the process of implementing all the policies affecting a particular nation. The implementation process of policies examines exactly what happens between the policy expectations and the perceived policy results. For something to be implemented there must be something else prior to the implementation. In this case, there is a policy that has to be implemented, for example, human rights to water policy. During the process of implementation, the key actions that are followed are formulation and decision-making. For the process of implementing a policy to be successful and beneficial, the formulator of the policy should have at least the same level of power as the implementer of the policy (Hill and Hupe, 2002).
Generally, the process of implementing a policy will include several steps. Each step will contain useful information that will lead to a better policy being put in place. The success of all the steps constitutes what is referred to as a successful policy implementation. The very first step involves studying the requirements of the policy implementation. In most nations, it is a requirement that all the undertakings and actions towards putting a new policy in place, should be put down in writing. For example, in the implementation of the human right to water policy, nations involved had to have a copy of written undertakings to the legislative body of each nation. Other standards of implementing are also met as laid down by the governments of different nations within the policy implementation. When all the requirements are met, the process is authorized to move to the next step (Hill and Hupe, 2002).
The second step of implementation involves, taking into account the results of risk assessment. Upon enforcement of the policy, at times some problems may arise. This is why, during the implementation process, such problems should be brought to table and solutions to them be evaluated such that when a particular problem occurs after the implementation process is over, there can be a ready solution to it. When this is done, it spares time and resources that would have been spent again for people to have a sitting to find solutions to problems. This step also identifies the strength of a policy. It clearly outlines the benefits that are bound to emerge from the policy. For example, in the implementation of the human right to water policy, such benefits like, reduction of deaths because of thirst were outlined. The benefits of the policy should be able to outweigh the risks presumed to occur. In the human right to water policy, it was affirmed beyond that, it would bring more benefits than risks and problems since as we all know, water is life to everyone. This section also bears the rules and the regulations that govern, to what extend a certain policy can hold. This is the reason as to why, although every human being has a right to water, it would be wrong to invade a person’s homestead and demand for water. In such a case, one’s right to water does not hold. Again, nobody can force another one to take water when he or she does not need it. In addition, this section contains all the consequences that can befall someone who fails to adhere to the policy. In other words, once it has been implemented and allowed to operate, everyone within the policy is bound to work in line with that (Hill and Hupe, 2002).
The third step of the implementation process involves optimization and alignment of the documents involved. All the documents containing the written policy, its purpose as well as all the relevant information concerning the policy and its implementation, should be put well in documents. This process involves clearly outlining the number and nature of all the documents. The information contained in one document should not be contained in another document. This is necessary in order to avoid repetition of issues already in other documents, although some information in one document can have a reference to another document without repeating the same information (Hill and Hupe, 2002).
All the documents should also adhere to the corporate rules of formatting documents. The required standards of written documents should be met. For large organizations, including nations, the number and size of the documents of policies and policy implementation are usually large. This is because; the documents have to give information targeting all those under the policy. For a policy such as the human right to water, the targeted group was large, since every man and woman as well as children falls under the category of human beings. Thus the documents of the human right to water policy were obviously many and large. It is always wise that the size of the documents be reduced as much as possible, since it would be a waste to produce large documents while nobody will be interested to read them wholly. The most important part of this section involves the approval of the documents. In order for the policy to start operating, all the documents containing information about it and its implementation should be approved by the appropriate body. The documents containing information about the human right to water were approved by all the governments off all the member nations. Finally, in the process of implementing a policy, training is usually conducted in order to keep all the people well informed (Hill and Hupe, 2002).
Implementation on the gulf countries
Within Saudi Arabia, only ninety five percent of the overall population has adequate access to drinking water, which can be considered, as safe. Even though that percentage can be classified as ideal in accordance to the international standards, the rate of consumption is quite high. Within Saudi Arabia, the water consumption rate stands at approximately 230 l/s (liters per day). Putting into consideration that water consumption rate should not exceed 200l/s in relation to the international standards, the Saudi Arabian consumption rate is way above the recommended rates. To ensure that every individual within Saudi Arabia enjoys the right to water, the Saudi Arabian authorities have formulated various policies related to water provision to the citizens.
Saudi Arabia highly depends on groundwater resources and thus policies have been developed to ensure that groundwater water is protected. Moreover, the policies make it certain that there is no over abstraction of groundwater to avoid depletion of this valuable resource. The Ministry of Water and Agriculture (MAW) has been given the mandate to monitor the levels of groundwater. The ministry has actually established more than seven hundred and sixty one observation wells within the country. The wells are used to measure the levels of water on either a periodic or a continuous basis. Water levels rise and fall non-uniformly throughout the aquifer after either a discharge or a charge (Harper & Subanthore, 2007).
Consequently, the changes observed within a specific well are not the ideal presentation of the water level changes within the aquifer. Therefore, drop in water level within a certain point of the aquifer is not an indication that there is an overdraft problematic issue, which has emerged. Nevertheless, once a wide observational wells network across a large region indicates significant falls in water levels; then the groundwater levels within that region can be considered to be on the decline. However, in certain areas within the same region the water levels remain static or experience an increase. It was therefore of great essence for the Saudi Arabian authority to establish a policy on the groundwater abstraction. Within the policy, guidelines have been given regarding when to license the drilling of wells along with boreholes. The various terms and condition, which have to be fulfilled prior to the drilling of the wells, as well as, boreholes, have also been specified within the policy.
Within Saudi Arabia, groundwater levels in various aquifers are experiencing significant drops. It was for that reason that the government had to formulate an effective policy to take control of the groundwater resources. The Saudi Arabian water policy, which ensures that every citizen enjoys the right to water, comprises of various measures. One of the measures within the policy is that all the wells have to be dug with the MAW authorization. It also encourages the establishment of special plants within the country’s major cities to pump water, which has been treated within pipeline networks. In addition, farmers have been advised to concentrate on water-saving crops, as well as, practice diversified agricultural production. In order to make better irrigation efficiency and minimize water use; the policy advocates for irrigation techniques, which are advanced such as the sprinkler along with drip system (Authman, 1983). The production of cereals along with fodder should also be shifted from the areas, which have adequate water requirements to those whose water requirements are low.
Within the policy, various penalizing categories have been established to ensure that water users prioritize water conservation. Nationwide campaigns have also been established to educate, as well as, create public awareness regarding the essence of water conservation. Moreover, the policy advocates for further scientific research with the aim of innovating new ways of re-using wastewater. The policy also contains rules along with regulations, which are already being applied within diverse scenarios. The wells, which had been drilled against the established regulations, have already been destroyed. Actually, within various regions of the Saudi Arabian kingdom, numerous wells were destroyed. Fines along with penalties, which include even imprisonment, are imposed on those partaking in water pollution or any other form of pollution, which is associated with environmental degradation. The pollution involves poor disposal of hazardous waste, waste oil, cosmopolitan waste, industrial waste, batteries along with other pollutants. The MAW is expected to monitor constantly water levels within the country without failure. The firms or organizations, which possess housing complexes, are required to utilize drainage water, as well as, teamed wastewater for the purposes of irrigating their lawns.
In order to ensure that the policy is adequately implemented, various bodies have been formed to oversee the Saudi Arabian water resources management. As mentioned earlier on, the responsibility of planning, as well as, development of every water resource lies within the MAW. All policies related to water issues are formulated and implemented by the MAW. The ministry is also involved with the licensing of the water resources usage along with exploration. The other body, which has been formed in the spirit of effective water resources management, is the Al-Hassa Irrigation and Drainage Authority. This authority is concerned with the introduction of modern technology, in addition to aqueducts construction for the purposes of irrigating the Al-Hassa Oasis land in order to facilitate extensive cultivation. The municipalities are also concerned with the water resources management (Dabbagh & Abdulerrahman, 1997). On top of offering drinking water to the residents, the municipalities should also regularly collect as well as dispose wastewaters, for instance, sewage along with trash. They are also involved with the reusing of treated wastewater in the irrigation of public greenery along with nurseries. In addition, the municipalities are also concerned with diverse activities aimed at establishing effective control measures within the field of community sanitation. The ministry of Municipal mid Rural Affairs (MOMRA) is the other body, which has also been formed in order to assist in the water resources management. MOMRA is mainly involved in water along with wastewater services. In order to undertake its duties smoothly, this ministry has established several Water and Sewage Boards (approximately six) across the country. The ministry ensures that the boards are adequately staffed and are under the good leadership of the region’s governor or even the deputy governor.
The Meteorology and Environmental Protection Administration (MEPA) was also established to ensure that the water resources are managed effectively. MEPA is concerned with conducting environmental surveys along with pollution assessment. The body also establishes the environmental standards along with regulations concerning water, as well as, land pollution. It also undertakes liquid along with gaseous waste disposal, disposal of radioactive materials along with pollution control. Moreover, the body should offer recommendations on how to respond to emergency cases. They also stay updated with the global environmental developments, as well as, climatologically forecasts along with meteorological analyses (Feldman & Center for American Places, 2007). The Royal Commission of Jubail and Yanbu (RCJY) also takes part in the water resources management. It was established after a memorandum of Understanding was reached between the Royal Commission and MEPA (Authman, 1983). Under the memorandum, environmental management within the commission’s jurisdiction area was delegated to it. The commission is required to undertake individual pollution levels monitoring by various enterprises along with consistent ambient air, noise along with water levels monitoring. The other body, which is also involved with the water resources management, is the Saudi Arabian Standards Organization (SASO). This is actually the organization, which deals with quality control within the country. Concerning water management, the body is required to establish the basic standards for both bottled along with non-bottles water.
For every individual to enjoy his or her right to water, the relevant organizations should ensure that the available water is adequately conserved (Dabbagh & Abdulerrahman, 1997). In this regard, the Saudi Arabian water policy has several rules along with regulations aimed at protecting and conserving the available water resources. Moreover, MEPA has established water quality standards, which have to be met by all institutions dealing with water provision to the citizens. These standards undergo upgrading from time to time. The initial document was the Document Number 1401-01, which was termed as “Environmental Protection Standards”. The document consists of both sources along with ambient standards aimed at protecting air along with water bodies. This is accomplished through the minimization of pollutants’ emission from sources along with the pollutants concentration within air, as well as, water. The standards should be observed by all existing facilities, that is, both public, along with private inclusive of transportation facilities, sewage treatment firms, and transportation facilities amongst others.
The promulgation of WQS (Water Quality Standards) was undertaken to meet various objectives. It was first aimed at the minimization of the waste generated. It also focused on reducing pollutants discharge at water sources. In addition, it ensured maximum pollutants assimilation, as well as, protection of the ambient water sources quality. It was also aimed at controlling wastewater quality prior to release to the main treatment facilities. The MAW in partnership with other agencies has also established water standards, which have to be met in the treatment, disposal along with reuse of wastewater. All these set of standards have been formulated to ensure that every Saudi Arabian has access to clean and safe water for domestic us in respect to the right to water, which is actually one of the international human rights.
The difficulties faced during implementation of the policy
One of the principal problems, which were incurred in the process of implementing water policy within Saudi Arabia, was the drastic increase in water demand especially within the urban areas. The two factors behind the alarming amplification of water demand were the accelerated population growth along with the rising per capita consumption. The mean population growth within gulf countries is estimated to be at 3.5%-6.0% annually and Saudi Arabia falls under this region. Moreover, the striking feature is that the day-to-day water consumption is one of the highest globally because it ranges from 350 to 700 liters per person. Besides, as time goes by, this volume is experiencing dramatic increases.
Implementation of the water policies in almost all gulf countries whereby Saudi Arabia is no exceptional is affected by the unsustainable utilization of groundwater, which is a valuable resource. Within Saudi Arabia in specific, non-renewable resources are been overly extracted in the absence of the information regarding the aquifers’ water supplies finite life. Saudi Arabia is regard to have tapped heavily its non-renewable aquifers large reserves. As a result, almost 33% of its groundwater resources, which are considered non-renewable, have been confirmed to be depleted (Dabbagh & Abdulerrahman, 1997). The Saudi Arabian aquifers full potential is yet to be established and a hot debate is still going on about the available data. Besides, the authorities are still waiting to conduct a detailed survey, as well as, modeling. The country is putting into consideration carrying out comprehensive reform program, which will involve establishment of a novel ministry, which will be termed as the Water and Electricity ministry. This implies that there will be problems in the passing over of the policies already formulated by the MAW to the new ministry (Authman, 1983). Moreover, the country’s sheer size comes up as a challenge on how groundwater conservation can be balanced with the countryside economy, which mainly relies on irrigated agriculture.
The groundwater over-extraction beyond the levels of safe yield will definitely lead to the remaining groundwater aquifers being polluted. The pollution will be brought about by the saline seawater intrusion into the aquifers. In addition, the lower aquifers will begin to produce water, which is brackish, as well as, saline. Furthermore, the ground water pollution will be accelerated by the excessive utilization of fertilizers along with pesticides, which will most probably be subsidized with the aim of increasing crop production. The pesticides, as well as, fertilizers pollute the underground water by seeping down to the aquifers.
It will take a considerable length of time to implement the vibrant measures aimed at improving the aquifer conditions by minimizing groundwater abstraction. Saudi Arabia; has already initiated programs of bringing into control the groundwater extraction even though they are yet to minimize the volumes of the abstracted water to manageable levels. The vibrant monitory along with regulatory measures, which have been adopted by the MAW, will assist a lot in overcoming this problem. However, the implementation of the water policies will be impacted on negatively by the continued utilization of groundwater on the irrigation of agricultural crops of low-value. This has led to the wastage of renewable along with non-renewable resources, which could have been reserved for other crucial uses in the future. The attempts to limit groundwater demand through the imposition of water charges, groundwater pumping restrictions, as well as, minimization of groundwater development will obviously meet staunch opposition from the residents. The idea of introducing irrigation systems, which are advanced, will take a considerable amount of time before it is fully welcomed within the country. The present irrigation methods used within the country such as the pivot sprinklers are associated with high water losses (Dabbagh & Abdulerrahman, 1997).
The other challenging issue in the process of implementing an effective water policy is the lack of an ideal water management mechanism. In addition, the present price-signaling system is considerably non-existent. The proposed policies are concerned with water supply from either desalination plants or simply aquifers and thus water demand management remains to be neglected at a greater extend. Even though there is substantial water production data within Saudi Arabia, there is little information regarding the factual water consumption, unaccounted water along with cost recover and thus the formulation of water policies largely relies on estimations (Harper & Subanthore, 2007). The absence of data is actually an issue of greater concern because the policies that are formulated based on estimated data rarely turn out to be effective. Besides, the amount of water losses within the distribution networks is considerably high as it is approximated to be ranging from 20 to 40 %. When these losses are combined with the cost of generating desalinated water, then the water provision agenda becomes too expensive to be fully implemented by the governing authorities.
The implementation of the water policy also faced the challenge of the water subsidies. The water subsides offered by the government can actually be considered as fiscal burdens which are heavy (Authman, 1983). The present government policies, which have subsidized the water sector at very high margins, have been predicted to turn out as counterproductive within the near future. The drastically escalating water demand will be exacerbated by the over dependence on subsidies. The subsidies will also bring about an unbearable burden with the country’s budget. Considerable volumes of water will need to be obtained from the desalination plants, which is very costly. It is estimated that unless the water subsidies are brought under control by 2025, they will be consuming more than 105 of the country’s revenue obtained from oil. The fiscal burden is set to be quite heavy putting into consideration the recent water demand trends, which are continually increasing. Even though the current escalated oil prices may persist, thereby resulting to significant revenues, it may be unwise to invest them on non-oil projects.
It is also of great essence to note that in the process of formulating the policy, it was somehow to estimate the amount of investment needed in the rehabilitation of the present desalination plants. Moreover, with the ever-changing economical conditions due to the persisting global inflation it was challenging to forecast on the exact costs of constructing the wastewater treatment plants, which had been proposed within the policies. Most of the present desalination plants had been constructed in the course of 1970s to 1980s, which means that they have been operating at full capacities. While conducting repair on the old desalination tanks, operations are interrupted leading to intermittent supply of water. Moreover, the water policies are too much focused on desalination tanks forgetting that the gulf region is experiencing increased salt concentration due to the large saline brines amounts discharged from the plants. In future, operating the tanks will be costly due to the large salt deposits. These challenges are worsened further by the potential interruptions, which will be brought about by plant malfunctions, along with oil spills (Harper & Subanthore, 2007).
Most of the residents within Saudi Arabia are reluctant to reuse the treated wastewater as suggested within the water policies. Due to the failure to utilize the treated wastewater, most of the water is drained to the ocean along with the adjoining wadis even when it has been treated to secondary levels. Besides, the policies advocate for the utilization of the treated wastewater for the purposes of recharging groundwater something, which can be greatly opposed by various health agencies. The health agencies will object the move as it can bring about negative impacts to the quality of the groundwater (Authman, 1983). The utilization of the treated wastewater in the irrigation of crops can also bring along negative health effects on the residents and thus it will receive wide opposition.
It was also a challenge to implement the policy with the limited goodwill of the private sector. Most of the water management issues are carried out by the governing authorities such as municipalities while the private sector remains neglected. The failure to involve the private sector in the formulation of water policies led to problems in convincing the society into absorbing the guidelines proposed within the policies. The conflicting responsibilities of the various ministries along with regional governments in the groundwater regulation will also exacerbate the problems of implementing the water policy.
There are various changes, which have to be incorporated within the policy in order to make it more effective. The government should not only strategize on increasing water production. This will lead to the exploitation of the renewable along with non-renewable sources of groundwater. It is necessary that the authorities also focus on water use management through the establishment of regional water providers who will also be dealing with sanitation issues (Dabbagh & Abdulerrahman, 1997). Water conservation should be prioritized and the concerned ministries should cooperate in order to come up with policies that are more vibrant. Various other regulatory programs such as pricing along with incentives should also be introduced. Internationally, water consumption has been found to reduce significantly upon the introduction of the regulatory programs. Water metering along with tariffs are also associated with reduced water consumption. In order to gain financial sustainability within the water sector; the tariff rates should be increases in relation to the metered consumption. This will assist a lot in conserving water, as most of the population will begin to use water in a limited way. Moreover, the subsidies should only be offered to a specific population, which has low-income rate to avoid burdening the poor in the society. However, subsidies should not be enjoyed by the overall population.
The measures aimed at saving water should also be tightened further. The water, which remains uncounted for within the country, should also be reduced. As at present, the uncounted water stands at more than 30% and thus it is of great essence that this percentage is brought to the required levels of fifteen to twenty percent or even less. In order to ensure that the water meters provide reliable, as well as, accurate details, they will have to be serviced regularly (Dabbagh & Abdulerrahman, 1997). Inspections should be conducted on the distribution networks to bring under control the volumes of water lost through constant leakages. A program should be implemented which will ensure that the monitoring of water flow within the distribution networks is undertaken effectively (Harper & Subanthore, 2007).The relevant authorities should also sensitize the public on the essence of conserving the ecosystem in the process of protecting the groundwater resources. This should be conducted by organizing awareness meetings in both urban along with rural areas.
Strong measures should be established aimed at reducing the over abstraction of the groundwater. The government should also reconsider implementing the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) system (Authman, 1983). This system advocates for the increased involvement of institutions along with the public sector in the water resource management. Furthermore, a water database should be established which is easily accessible concerning the IWRM system. This is because there are crucial data gaps within Saudi Arabia especially regarding the efficiency of utilities management. The private along with the public sector should also be able to gather reliable information from the database.
It is evident that more still needs to be done within Saudi Arabia along with the other gulf countries to make the right to water a reality. The water policies need to be revised by putting into consideration the arising issues within the water sector. In countries such as Saudi Arabia, the water policies lack guidelines on the wastewater treatment objectives (Feldman & Center for American Places, 2007).This has led to unfortunate consequences. It is therefore necessary that treatment plants, which are highly technical, be constructed. The present treatment plants did not factor in the local needs along with quality control aspects. It is also important to learn that the water conservation can also be accomplished through the reuse of the treated wastewater. The private sector should also be involved in the water resource management. The private sector is set to bring along technical, as well as managerial expertise within the water sector. Moreover, the private sector will assist in improving operational efficiency, construction of projects at large scales along with reduction in public expenditures. The countries, which have absorbed the private sector in the water resource management, have realized positive impacts such as adequately meeting the water users’ demands.
Authman, M. N. (1983). Water and Development in Saudi Arabia. Jeddah: Tihama Press.
Biswas, A. K., Rached, E., Tortajada, C., & Third World Centre for Water Management. (2008). Water as a Human Right for the Middle East and North Africa. London: Routledge.
Dabbagh, E. & Abdulerrahman, W. A. (1997). Management of Ground Water Resources under Various Irrigation Water Use Scenarios in Saudi Arabia. The Arabian Journal for Science and Engineering, 22(1), 47-64.
Feldman, D. L., & Center for American Places. (2007). Water policy for sustainable development. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Harper, R. A., & Subanthore, A. (2007). Saudi Arabia. New York, NY: Chelsea House.
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Salman, S. M. A., & McInerney-Lankford, S. A. (2004). The human right to water: Legal and policy dimensions. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.