In 2013 GCC residents consumed around 14.1 billion litres of bottled water, the GOIC report claimed. Around 98% of this was locally-produced, with only 294 million litres coming from imports outside the GCC.
“Bottled water is a vital manufacturing industry since it guarantees drinking water, one of the most crucial necessities for human life. It is also an important pillar of food security in the GCC region where natural water is scarce,” said GOIC secretary general Abdulaziz Bin Hamad Al-Ageel.
Investment ramp-up needed
The report suggests GCC water producers will need to invest heavily in new facilities and new sources of water to meet the rising demand, estimated at 6-7% a year until the end of the decade. GOIC figures suggest Saudi Arabia will need to increase production by 64.1% to meet demand, with the UAE facing a 22.8% increase.
As of 2013 the total bottled water production capacity across the region was 15.3 billion litres, split between 183 factories. Saudi Arabia accounted for 52.5% of these facilities, but GOIC said the kingdom’s plants were in general much larger than those in other countries.
The large Saudi factories took up 79% of the US$1.6bn invested in bottled water facilities in 2013, an average of around US$13.3m per plant in the kingdom, compared to an average of US$3.86m per plant in the rest of the GCC.
Over the last decade investment in bottled water facilities has increased significantly, with annual investment more than tripling from the US$446m spent in 2003. At that point 106 factories were in operation, with a capacity of around 7.5bn litres a year, just under half the current figure.
Saudi hits export market
The GCC import and export market for bottled water, already comparatively small, shrank significantly in 2012 when Saudi Arabia ceased exports of bottled water as part of its programme to conserve its water resources. That move saw GCC exports fall 57% to 194 million litres in 2012.
With the departure of Saudi Arabia from the export market, water from the UAE now makes up 58% of all exports. More than 61% of water exported by GCC producers stays within the region, with around 74 million litres exported out of the GCC.