By Arab News
Saudi Arabia has banned the export of packed and unpacked water as well as ice as part of measures to improve supplies locally, Arab News’ sister publication Al-Eqtisadiah reported Thursday quoting an informed source.
The Council of Ministers had previously approved a project to set up water factories where exports of water and ice were banned. The Shoura Council, through its committee on water, utilities and public services, had also banned the export of water and ice.
The source said all the Kingdom’s outlets have started to apply the decision. Any truck taking water or ice would not be allowed to cross the Kingdom’s borders.
The source said the water companies were coordinating among themselves to prepare a memorandum to dispute the decision and to ask to be given enough time to compensate for the expected shortfall in revenue resulting from the surprise decision. They said they were committed to honoring the contracts they had signed with companies and other organizations in a number of GCC countries to supply them with water and ice.
Khaled Al-Tamimi, an agent for a number of Saudi water companies in Bahrain, said Saudi customs officials were ordered to prevent any truck carrying water or ice from entering ports. “The water companies in Saudi Arabia did not inform us of this sudden decision. They told us that they themselves had no knowledge of it before,” he said.
The Kingdom exports water and ice to the GCC countries under long-term contracts signed by Saudi water producing companies with their counterparts in the Gulf countries.
The source said the decision, however, did not include juices.
“The Saudi water companies have contracts with a number of private and public organizations in the Gulf countries to supply them with water and ice including airlines, hotels and others,” said a businessman who preferred anonymity.
He noted that the long-term contracts signed by the Saudi water companies with the GCC countries included penalty clauses and said the Saudi companies should be given enough time to organize themselves to avoid incurring financial losses.
The Kingdom, which is facing a water shortage, is making efforts to rationalize its consumption. It consumes about 17 billion liters of water annually, of which about 85 percent goes to the agricultural sector while the remaining 15 percent is for human consumption and industries.
According to sources, who did not want to be identified, the first steps taken to rationalize the consumption of water included the cessation of growing wheat. They noted that the step did not succeed as farmers turned to growing fodder, which were water-consuming crops.
There are about 70 water factories in the Kingdom including 14 in the city of Riyadh alone. The organization of the water factories, which did not include Zamzam producers, was aimed clearly at specifying the roles, responsibilities and duties of each government department regarding the water factories.
Under the new organization, the Ministry of Water and Electricity was assigned the responsibility of issuing technical licenses for the use of water sources. The ministry will supervise the factories to make sure that they are observing the rules and regulations organizing the use of water sources.
The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs was made responsible for issuing municipal licenses to the factories. The Saudi Food and Drugs Authority (SFDA) was made responsible for packaged water and ice factories to make sure that they were kept away from polluted areas. The SFDA will also decide the specifications of water production. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry will issue industrial licenses and trade registrations for the factories.