Clean and clear: Can we produce drinking water without leaving a carbon footprint?

Producing clean drinking water can be highly energy intensive. But in Saudi Arabia, one of the driest places on earth, there’s a growing industry for producing this resource sustainably

Sep.30, 2021

Bordered by sea on its eastern and western coastlines, Saudi Arabia’s parched landscape is one of the hottest and driest places on earth. The lines “Water, water every where, Nor any drop to drink” spring to mind when you consider the challenges facing this arid nation.

Precipitation averages at just three inches in a year in the capital Riyadh, while some pockets of the country may not see rain for a decade or more. In summer, temperatures within its cities regularly breach 40C, soaring to 55C out in the desert. The country has no lakes or rivers, and its underground aquifers are rapidly depleting.

Needless to say, Saudi Arabia understands the value of water all too well.

But unlike the lost and despairing mariners in Coleridge’s famous poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, Saudi scientists have harnessed the salty seawater around them through desalination. Now, as the world’s biggest producer of desalinated water, they are forging towards a future where this essential resource is both affordable and sustainable.

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