Makkah the birth place of Islam, situated in Western Saudi Arabia, is a region comprised of an area of about 153,148 sq.km. Saudi Arabia is divided into 13 regions and each region is further sub divided into Governorates (administrative units), headed by governors. Makkah region is divided into 17 Governing Units called Muhafazat.
Makkah is one of the regions in which religious gatherings are conducted throughout the year, and consumption of water is always on high demand. This demand exceeds multiple times the normal demand on two special occasions of “Ramadan and Dhu-al- Hijjah” (The two sacred months of Islam). In those sacred months water requirements for the region exceeds are tremendously high. The Kingdom makes every effort to fulfill the water requirements for its visitors/ pilgrims and Hajjies but still the region’s water requirements are very high.
In pre-modern Makkah, the city used few main sources for water. The first were local wells, such as the 2400 BC old Zamzam Well. The second was the more than 1200 years old Ayn Zubaydah, a canal constructed by Queen Zubaydah wife of Caliph Haroon Al-Rasheed which served for many years. The third source was rainfall stored by the people in small reservoirs. At present, in modern age, the region is fulfilling its water demands with the ZamZam well for pilgrims/Hajjis and with groundwater along with the sea desalinated plants for the sacred city. Saudi Arabia is the largest producer of desalinated water.
Due to recent climate change; some heavy rainfalls were observbed in the Holy City of Makkah, especially in November 2018 when heavy showers broke all the past records. This has opened an opportunity for the Kingdom in “Rainwater Harvesting” which would save the potable rain water, most of which is wasted in city drainage lines into the sea. The Kingdom can make it beneficial by storing the rain water in underground formations and make an effort to increase the groundwater reservoirs for the holy city. Two approaches for rainwater harvesting are mentioned below:
ASR (Aquifer Storage and Recovery Wells)
ASR wells can be installed on catchment areas by selecting dipping points inside the holy city to drill recharging wells which could collect rain water and store in Aquifer from where it can be extracted by groundwater drilling process in future. This would not only improves the city underground water levels but also improve the quality of underground water by preventing saline water intrusion and plays a vital role in increasing potable water sources for the city.
Rain drainage water can be diverted and collected in selected places to form artificial lakes which plays a vital role in recharging surrounding areas, supporting ecosystem, beautifying cities and nature for the local birds, habitat, as well as establishing potable reservoirs for the city. Instead of sandy or clayey ground Makkah rocky ground is helpful to hold such water and works fine for the formation of such small lakes.
Besides mega projects of building new dams, these two approaches can be opted to store and reuse the rain water which would play a vital role in planning and developing future water resources. Implementing these options in the dry lands, arid zones and desserts of Arabia can convert them into green lands, savanna and into the green wetland.