Saudi Arabia is one of the driest countries in the world, and a lack of water has made the country literally thirsty. As their population increases, so does their thirst. With forests shrinking, ancient wells drying up and no rainfall on the horizon, Saudi Arabia is running out of water fast.
Lacking any significant sources to replenish what has been begrudgingly depleted by agriculture and industry as well as by natural forces such as desalination plants and seasonal monsoons, Saudi Arabia relies on more ancient methods to sustain the nation.
The Saudi government, which claims to be protecting the nation’s resources and ecological balance while attempting to meet the demands of its citizenry, has taken steps in recent years to sustain a water supply for its population. For example, it has proposed various desalination plants as part of an extensive national water infrastructure program.
These water-saving measures and economic diversification programs aim to solve two major problems affecting Saudi Arabia’s future: the country’s growing population and the rapid depletion of its most important resource — water.
The measures put in place to resolve this issue include:
Cultivating The Desert
According to National Geographic, during the last two decades, the desert has made an impressive comeback from a short dry period caused by the decline in worldwide oil prices leading to financial difficulties for many countries and companies. Saudi Arabia was no exception.
The government nationalized large areas of Saudi territory and began a massive land reclamation program to increase agricultural production and water availability. This has been a vital aspect in nourishing the nation.
After two decades without any significant problems resulting from these measures, the desert has begun to encroach again on vital areas and natural resources in recent years. Growing food in a hot and dry climate has proven to be less than ideal, and the desalination plants cannot meet the needs of an expanding population.
Saudi Arabia is the biggest exporter of oil in the world. Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth provides the country with an enormous amount of money to spend on water use and conservation projects. Still, there are limits to the amount of water invested in these programs because it comes from a limited resource. Water has long been taken for granted in Saudi Arabia. The government is now advocating for massive land acquisition for the growth of crops; in and out of the nation.
Desalination plants are a large contributor to Saudi Arabia’s water supply but are also costly and polluting. They require a great deal of energy to produce water, so Saudi Arabia is investing in constructing and implementing some of the largest desalination plants ever seen. The plants produce more pollution than clean water and are not environmentally friendly.
The cry for conservation is as old as the desire for wealth, but Saudi Arabia is just now taking a serious look at how it can cut down on its water consumption. If this program is successful, it could preserve a valuable natural resource and possibly develop the basis for an environmentally friendly alternative to desalination plants and more traditional techniques of pumping groundwater.
Saudi Arabia is a country that has long relied on its oil wealth to provide for its population. However, despite the government’s efforts to find a solution to this tinderbox of conflicting issues, water still remains in short supply. Saudi Arabia’s growing population and increasing water consumption put an unsustainable strain on the country’s water supply. Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil revenue, coupled with a dearth of modern water delivery methods, puts the nation in an untenable position.