02/13/2016, 13.13
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Saudi water resources at risk, to run out in 13 years

King Faisal University raises the alarm. Groundwater will be used up in just over a decade, leaving the country high and dry. Gulf States have the largest per capita gap between renewable water supply and demand. Aquifer depletion is already visible.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Groundwater in the Kingdom will run out over the next 13 years, leaving the country high and dry, this according to a water expert at King Faisal University, a public university whose main campus is in the city of Hofuf in the Eastern Province (ash-Sharqiyyah).

Mohammed Al-Ghamdi, a faculty member at KFU, made the comments in the wake of a sobering report issued by the World Bank on global natural water scarcity, particularly in Gulf countries that have some of the highest rate of water consumption per capita in the world.

Groundwater refers to the water found beneath Earth's surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations. In some cases, it is renewable; in many, it can be located across national borders, thus lead to tensions between ethnic groups and nations.

Gulf Co-operation Countries are seeing the largest gaps between renewable water supply and demand, where Bahrain used 220 per cent of its renewable water reserves versus 943 per cent in the Kingdom and 2,465 per cent in Kuwait.

“Official estimates have been disclosed showing an acute drop in water levels in agricultural areas, and that indicates the seriousness of the situation,” Al-Ghamdi said. “This is a dangerous situation for all future crops that depend on these aquifers.”

Al-Ghamdi explained that the Kingdom mainly relies on two sources of water: groundwater and water from desalination plants that remove salt from seawater in an extremely energy intensive procedure.

The Kingdom lacks rivers and lakes so that groundwater represents about 98 per cent of total water sources.

Al-Ghamdi explained that this type of water is being depleted because of unstudied agricultural expansions in wheat, barley and forage crops that use large amounts of water.

He also noted that other crops also contribute to increased groundwater depletion, such as palm plantations, olives and fruits.

“The agricultural sector is the most consuming of water in addition to the industrial sector and human consumption. Agricultural consumption is estimated around 95 per cent and 5 per cent for industrial and human consumption,” he noted.

Al-Ghamdi said that the only choice available right now is renewing groundwater to increase natural water supplies. However, on the long run, some of the potential consequences of overused aquifers are starvation, war and death.

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