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Saudis boiling over exorbitant new water tariffs

Saudis have long enjoyed cheap water as part of lavish government benefits [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 March, 2016

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In water-poor Saudi Arabia, locals have taken to social media to call for the Minister of Water to step down after new taxes have ballooned their water bills.

Saudi Arabians have taken to social media to vent their frustrations after receiving their first water bills since the government began taxing water for residents to try and address the soaring cost of debt, as oil revenues decline.

Furious Saudis shared snapshots of their bills, some of which were as much as 3,000 percent higher than their previous bills, and demanded the government bring back the old prices.

The new water tariff comes amid warnings that Saudi Arabia's groundwater will run out in the next 13 years and intense pressure on the state to cut spending after the plunge of oil prices.

"Have they changed the type of water they pump to people? Or have they added vitamins? My bill has jumped from $8 to $265!" former football star Faisal Abu Thnain tweeted.

Lawyer Abdallah al-Otaibi shared an image of his latest bill worth a stunning $53,300.

Economist Abdul Hamid al-Amri said: "Most people agree we need to reprice water and electricity, however, the new water prices are unfair".

Other social media users called on the Minister of Water and Electricity, Abdallah al-Hussein, to step down after he told local media that new bills were "half the price of one family member's mobile phone bill".

Hussein had earlier said the majority of people would not be affected by the hike in price, which is among the cheapest in the world, and that half of consumers would not pay more than one riyal per day ($0.2).

Residential users have long enjoyed cheap water as part of lavish social welfare benefits provided by the government.

"Everyday Saudis don't know how to calculate their water consumption. This has led to huge bills, which in some cases are around 30 percent of their income," financial analyst Fahad al-Rabiah told The New Arab.

"Pretty soon many people will be late to pay their bills, which will put more financial strain on the Kingdom. Most large families with high rates of consumption are low or middle income and have been the most affected," Rabiah added.

The daily per capita consumption of water in Saudi Arabia stands at 380 litres, well above the global average of 160 to 180 litres per day.

The Kingdom ranks third after the United States and Canada in terms of average daily water consumption, despite the scarcity of water and the difficulty in desalinating and delivering it to consumers.

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