Saudi Arabia relies mainly on ground water and desalinated water for drinking purposes. Water from these sources must be treated to make it suitable for drinking. The Saudi Arabian Standards Organization (SASO) provides the country’s water quality specifications. This organization, which defines what is safe for consumption, has developed both bottled and unbottled drinking water standards.
Fluoride, a chemical element that naturally occurs in some water sources, can have significant effects on human health. When its concentration is below 0.5mg/L, the risk of tooth decay is intensified. On the other hand, concentrations between 1.5 and 2mg/L can cause osteoporosis, as well as dental and skeletal fluorosis. The correct concentration is required to prevent or reduce the risk of tooth decay. In Saudi Arabia, the recommended value is between 0.7 and 1.2mg/L.
Due to increases in industrial growth and population, Saudi Arabia has turned to desalinated water to meet increased demand. The country is the biggest producer of desalinated water, accounting for 24.4 percent of the world’s desalinated water production. However, desalinated water can be contaminated with heavy metals from corrosion of construction materials or from the well water used for blending. The Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) monitors the water for any toxic and inorganic chemicals and ensures that the desalinated water complies with SASO standards. The recommended maximum contaminant level of heavy metals in drinking water is 50ug/L for arsenic, selenium, lead and chromium. The maximum contaminant level for mercury is 1ug/L, while the maximum level for cadmium is 5ug/L.
In Saudi Arabia, microbial quality tests are performed to monitor the presence of coliforms or fecal streptococci in the country’s water. Drinking water with any form of coliform organism suggests that the water was not treated adequately. Water should be treated with free chlorine residual of more than 0.2 ppm to remove all coliforms. The SASO standard of chlorine residual set in 1984 mandates levels between 0.2 and 0.5 ppm for safe drinking water.
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
Total dissolved solids (TDS) are the small organic matter and inorganic salts present in water. Examples include magnesium, potassium, cations, calcium, sulfates, hydrogen carbonates and nitrates, among others. TDS are important because they affect how water tastes. However, they should be in the right concentrations. Improper concentrations of TDS cause water to taste dull and flat, or otherwise unacceptable. The SASO drinking water specifications for total dissolved solids is 1500mg/L of water.