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Peak water in Saudi Arabia

Ugo Bardi, The Oil Drum: Europe
Look at these irrigated fields in Saudi Arabia, just an example of the cultivations that dot the desert. However, in a few years these fields may disappear. Peak water may have taken place in Saudi Arabia already more than 10 years ago.

According to recent news from Reuters (2008) the Saudi government has decided to stop all subsidies to agriculture. It means abandoning a policy that had obtained self sufficiency in food production and that had allowed Saudi Arabia to be a major food exporter in the past. According to Reuters, “The kingdom aims to rely entirely on imports by 2016”. The desert is going to win back the land it had ceded to agriculture.

These news come as a surprise, but not so much. Saudi Arabian food production has been based on “fossil water.” It is water from ancient aquifers that can’t be replaced by natural processes in times of interest for human beings. Fossil water is non renewable, just as oil is, and it is unavoidable that it has to run out one day or another.

A wealth of data on the Saudi Arabian water situation can be found in the paper by Walid A. Abderrahman (2001) “Water Demand Management in Saudi Arabia”. From this paper, we learn that water production in Saudi Arabia has reached a peak in the early 1990s, at more than 30 billion cubic meters per year, and declined afterwards. Today, it is at around 15 billion cubic meters, less than half than the peak value. We also learn that most of this water, 90% at the peak, came from non renewable aquifers.
(29 January 2008)

Food and drink giants pledge to reduce water use

Rebecca Smithers, The Guardian
Twenty-one of the UK’s leading food and drink manufacturers today joined forces in a new initiative to cut down on water usage and improve efficiency across all areas of their businesses.

If rolled out across the food and drink sector as a whole, the scheme could save some 140m litres of water a day – equivalent to 56 Olympic-size swimming pools – with a combined financial saving of around £60m per year on water bills.

But consumer and environmental groups were expected to question how effective a voluntary agreement would be, amid concerns about whether consumers might be compromised by possible cutbacks on the use of water in health and safety areas.
(28 January 2008)

Farmers work to conserve water
Kyle Norris, The Environment Report
Some experts say water will be the “oil” of the next generation. As it become more scarce, prices are going to go up. For farmers, that’s serious business. Kyle Norris recently spent time with several farmers who say they think about water constantly:
(28 January 2008)