In perhaps the most comprehensive two-part news article on water and agriculture in Saudi Arabia, Samiha Shafy in Der Spiegel discusses the Kingdom’s efforts at securing water for its growing population and “recognizing that agriculture, at least the way it is practiced today, could ruin the country.” But Saudi Arabia must keep in mind that water found deep below the dunes there could only be a temporary fix at best.
Shafy hits it on the head:
“In Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, there are pressing, existential questions to be addressed. How much water is left in underground aquifers? And what is the best way to use the precious resource to ensure that the country will be able to supply its growing population with water for as long as possible?”
The crude reality is that the only way for the Kingdom to sustain its impressive growth of late is to have a comprehensive water strategy, and the most important part of this is in understanding that the water problem is intimately tied with agriculture. It seems that the Saudis get that part of it quite well:
“In the future, the Ministry plans to monitor water consumption on farms in real time. “If we incorporate this data into our new groundwater models,” says Al-Saud, “we can use it to develop a comprehensive water strategy, which could also serve as a model for other countries.”
This is why the Saudis have invested heavily in owning foreign farmlands, so that they can grow their crops abroad – where water is plentiful – and import them back to Saudi Arabia. Smart move.
How about this idea? Bottle that water found in aquifers deep below the sand and export it to the world’s trendiest cafes. Remember how crazy everyone was about water from Fiji? Well, this would be probably ten times more expensive, and thus, exclusive. And trust me, people would buy it – many just to say that they prefer their water imported from one of the world’s driest places.
With the revenue, you could invest in a more sustainable source of water, like desalinization plants.