Can I drink the tap water in Saudi Arabia and Ryiadh? Where does it come from? What are the common issues with tap water? What is the best water filter for Saudi Arabia?
Living in, moving to or planning on visiting Saudi Arabia and wondering if you can drink the tap water?
In this article we will answer all your questions about Saudi and Ryiadh tap water.
Where does the tap water in Saudi Arabia and Ryiadh come from?
Saudi Arabia is the world's largest producer of desalinated water. About 50% of drinking water comes from desalination (some source claim 70%), 40% from the mining of non-renewable groundwater and only 10% from surface water in the mountainous southwest of the country. The capital Riyadh, located in the heart of the country, is supplied with desalinated water pumped from the Persian Gulf over a distance of 467 km. Water is provided almost for free to residential users.
Saline Water Conversion Corporation is responsible for sea water treatment in Saudi Arabia. Desalinated water has gone through various chemical processes in order to add specific minerals into the original saline water that will cause it to diminish and thus become safe to drink. The output water is 100% safe for drinking. The main issue is with the temporary storage tanks at homes and building which are often poorly maintained and the decaying piping systems.
Another issue is continuous water supply. Despite clear improvements, the quality of service remains insufficient. For example, few cities enjoy continued service, and water pressure is often inadequate. In Riyadh water was available only once every 2.5 days in 2011, while in Jeddah it is available only every 9 days. This is still better than in 2008, when the respective figures were 5 and 23 days. While systematic data on service quality are now available for several cities, they are not publicly available. In some localities groundwater used for drinking water supply is naturally contaminated with levels of fluoride in excess of the recommended level of 0.7 to 1.2 mg/l.
Can I drink the the tap water in Saudi Arabia and Ryiadh?
In theory the tap water is safe to drink. According to WHO data, 99% of Saudi Arabia cities/towns and rural areas have access to improved water sources, that are available when needed.
But the real situation is a bit more complicated than this with three issues:
The unpleasant sensorial (taste) problems associated with desalinated drinking tap water is one of the driving force for most people in the Kingdom to depend on bottled water. To fix this at source is really difficult as it doesn't make financial sense to treat all water to improve taste when only 1% is used for drinking. This is why point of use water filters that improve taste like TAPP play such an important role.
Another issue is the perception of the water quality whether it's true or false. Because of the taste and myths many people perceive the tap water as full of contaminants and thus unsafe. it is essential that the government clearly communicates that the water is safe to drink including transparent reporting of physicochemical properties, biofilm presence and organoleptic parameters. Here water filters can also provide an insurance for households that the water is definitely safe to drink.
3. Water tanks and pipes
In newer neighborhoods and buildings across Saudi Arabia people can be fairly confident that the pipes and water tanks will not cause an issue. But for anyone living in a building or area older than 20 years these are major concerns. Thankfully point of use water filters can play a key role in ensuring that the output water is always safe to drink.
Bottled water in Saudi Arabia
Although, tap water is generally safe to drink, demand for bottled water is increasing. Saudi Arabia was the 12th largest country per capita consumption of bottled water in 2015. In that year, about 3.4 billion liters bottled water was consumed by Saudi inhabitants. That translates into an annual average of 92.3 L capita.
But bottled water is not necessarily safer or healthier than tap water. About 90 percent of drinking water bottling plants across the Kingdom violate the hygiene rules while their workers are untrained, according to a member of the Consumer Protection Association.
“About 24 percent of samples taken from the plants were found contaminated by E.coli bacteria while 16 percent of water sold for human use was contaminated by fecal coliform bacteria,” he said, adding that the quality of water depends on chemicals used for sterilization.
Multiple studies have shown that tap water is of similar or better quality compared to bottled water.
Results were compared with 5-year continuous monitoring data of tap water from different locations in Madinat Yanbu Al-Sinaiyah (MYAS) including storage tanks of desalination plant. Results show that there was no significant difference in the quality of tap water and bottled water. Bacteriological test was never found positive in the 5-year data in tap water.
The quality of bottled water turned out to be worse than tap water with several samples with nitrate, sodium and mineral content above the legal limits. Although most samples quality level complied with the GSO standards some didn't including pH values, TDS, SO4 and Fluoride in the samples. The label of the BDW should include more details about the source of the water and the concentration of Fluoride for example.
Best water filters for Saudi Arabia
Although water filters have been available in Saudi Arabia for 100+ years it's not until recently that they've become affordable and efficient enough for everyone to use. There is a wide range of filters available including expensive and water wasting reverse osmosis filters, pitcher filters and faucet filters.
One of the best water filters for Saudi Arabia available is EcoPro by TAPP Water. It's been specifically designed and tested to provide great tasting and clean water based on the water issues in the Kingdom. Read more about how EcoPro compares to other water filters.
- In general Saudi Arabia has acceptable tap water in accordance with WHO standards
- The main issues are taste, disruptions to the water supply, water tanks and pipes
- For good tasting and clean water use a high quality water filter for Saudi Arabia such as EcoPro
- Avoid bottled water if you can as there is no evidence that it's healthier and it's definitely worse for the environment