Saudi Arabia: Ambient Water Quality Standards

Oct 7th, 2012 | By | Category: Environmental Management

Saudi Arabia’s Standards on Ambient Water Quality seek to establish a framework to enable sustainable management of ambient water quality; protect the water supply and natural aquatic environment; and provide a basis for the restoration of waters used for recreational, agricultural, industrial, potable, and ecological purposes within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These Standards apply to all coastal and underground waters and include any surface freshwater that may be present permanently or temporarily. On March 24, 2012, the National Ambient Water Quality Standards for Saudi Arabia adopted by the Presidency of Metrology and Environment (PME) entered into force. The National Ambient Water Quality Standards for Saudi Arabia refer to the specifications of ambient waters including safety, aesthetics, and physical and chemical aspects.

 

Waters Subject to Exemptions

Despite the large range of waters covered by the Standards, there are a few exceptions to be noted. Mixing zones while discharge is operational, private water bodies (including swimming pools), storm water, sewerage systems or treatment works including tertiary treatment ponds, and water within an isolated tank or system — such as an area lined with materials that are impervious to water (e.g. a septic tank) — are not subject to the Ambient Water Standards.

 

Ambient Water Quality Requirements

All classified waters, including coastal waters, groundwater, and surface water, must meet the prescribed concentrations and values stipulated in the Standards. The Standards apply to people and organizations including industrial facilities and offices generating wastewater. The latter are prohibited from any action or inaction that might cause any of the quality criteria to be exceeded or to further exceed the ambient standards.   

 

Violation of the Standards 

If it is determined that the standards are violated or that significant environmental degradation has occurred, the PME will investigate the local ambient conditions to identify the people who are responsible for the violation or degradation. The PME will then assess site compliance against the prescribed concentrations and values set out in the Industrial and Municipal Wastewater Standards, specify the appropriate risk-based mitigating actions with reference to corrective and preventative action, and if required, launch other enforcement action or prosecution. Enforcement and prosecutions will be determined by the conditions set out in the General Environmental Regulations.

If the contravention of ambient standards is due to the cumulative impact of local discharges but without infringement of discharge standards, the PME may take one of the following actions:

  • study the assimilative capacity of the local environment against the context of current and future use criteria; or
  • revise and enforce local discharge standards according to these findings in order to protect human health and the environment as set forth within the General Environmental Regulations.

In the event the existing background conditions are considered to be of better quality than the Standards, those background conditions must be maintained at least as a minimum requirement.

 

Classification of Water Bodies

All water bodies are classified as fresh surface water, groundwater, or coastal water. All coastal water must be subdivided into usage-related classifications (e.g., marine, high-value, industrial) by the competent agency for the purposes of monitoring ambient water quality. Coastal waters can be further classified into primary or secondary recreational zones if they meet the criteria. The PME, however, can at any time amend usage zones following their initial classification.

 

Monitoring the Water Bodies

The PME or any other appointed authority is responsible for carrying out the monitoring of water bodies in order to assess compliance with water quality objectives. The monitoring program includes the parameters to be monitored, the sampling locations and frequency, the sampling methods and equipment, the methods of quality assurance and validation of the sampling results, the responsibilities and necessary qualifications of the staff, and the recording and reporting requirements. Notably, the analytical testing methods for determining compliance with the National Ambient Water Quality Standards are required to be in line with the most recent Standard Method for the Examination of Water and Wastewater published by the American Public Health Association (APHA).

 

Enforcement Actions

Failure to comply with the requirements of these Standards may lead to prosecution by the PME, and those convicted of such failure may be subject to fines or periods of imprisonment as laid out in the General Environmental Regulations. The Ambient Water Standards are enforced nationally with inspections taking place to verify their implementation at the regional and local levels. Fines and imprisonment for breach of permit and failure to comply with an abatement notice are set forth in the General Environmental Regulations.

 

Implications of the Standards

The PME will issue a strategic program for the maintenance or improvement of ambient water in Saudi Arabia and develop water quality improvement objectives for waters that are failing to achieve the required water quality standards.  Industries should note that areas classified as industrial in the Ambient Water Standard will have specific water quality improvement programs.  The water quality programs are expected to take all of the necessary steps to minimize the deterioration of groundwater quality.

The text of the Ambient Water Standard  is available online.

 

About the Author

Sanaa Chakibi is a lead regulatory consultant in the Washington, D.C., U.S.A. office of Enhesa, Inc., where she specializes in the Middle East and North Africa regions.  Ms. Chakibi monitors regulatory developments throughout the Middle East and North Africa has written audit protocols for several countries in this area.  She holds a Master’s degree from the George Washington Law School, a Bachelor in Private Law (Licence en Droit Prive) from the Hassan II University in Casablanca, Morocco, and is a member of the District of Columbia Bar Association.

 

Photograph: Abstract Geometry by Constantin Jurcut, London, England.

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3 Comments to “Saudi Arabia: Ambient Water Quality Standards”

  1. […] Saudi Arabia: Ambient Water Quality Standards […]

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  3. […] Saudi Arabia’s Standards on Ambient Water Quality seek to establish a framework to enable sustainable management of ambient water quality; protect the water supply and natural aquatic environment; and provide a basis for the restoration of waters used for recreational, agricultural, industrial, potable, and ecological purposes within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These Standards apply to all coastal and underground waters and include any surface freshwater that may be present permanently or temporarily. On March 24, 2012, the National Ambient Water Quality Standards for Saudi Arabia adopted by the Presidency of Metrology and Environment (PME) entered into force. The National Ambient Water Quality Standards for Saudi Arabia refer to the specifications of ambient waters including safety, aesthetics, and physical and chemical aspects. Read more on EHS Journal […]

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