Water supply and sanitation in Saudi Arabia is characterized by significant investments in seawater desalination, water distribution, sewerage and wastewater treatment leading to a substantial increase in access to drinking water and sanitation over the past decades. About 50% of drinking water comes from desalination, 40% from the mining of non-renewable groundwater and 10% from surface water, especially in the mountainous South-West 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. Given the substantial oil wealth, water is provided almost for free. Despite improvements service quality remains poor. For example, in Riyadh water was available only once every 2.5 days in 2011, while in Jeddah it is available only every 9 days. Institutional capacity and governance in the sector are weak, reflecting general characteristics of the public sector in Saudi Arabia. Since 2000, the government has increasingly relied on the private sector to operate water and sanitation infrastructure, beginning with desalination and wastewater treatment plants. Since 2008, the operation of urban water distribution systems is being gradually delegated to private companies as well.
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