Kingdom’s groundwater ‘will run out in 13 years’

Kingdom’s groundwater ‘will run out in 13 years’

Kingdom’s groundwater ‘will run out in 13 years’

Saudi Gazette report

DAMMAM — Groundwater in the Kingdom will run out within the next 13 years, according to a water expert at King Faisal University.

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, Al-Watan Arabic daily reported.

GCC countries are witnessing the largest gaps between renewable water supply and demand, where Bahrain used 220 percent of its renewable water reserves versus 943 percent in the Kingdom and 2,465 percent 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 is devoid of rivers and lakes, and as a result groundwater accounts for about 98 percent 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 noted that there are other crops that also contribute to increased depletion of groundwater, 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 percent and 5 percent for industrial and human consumption," he said, noting that this demonstrates the seriousness of random agricultural expansions.

Al-Ghamdi said that the only choice available right now is renewing groundwater to increase natural water supplies.

Recent work has documented that Saudi Arabia and significant segments of earth's population are consuming groundwater more quickly than it is recharging without knowing when it might run out. Worldwide groundwater still is largely unregulated and unmanaged. Potential consequence when an overused aquifer can no longer supplement limited water supplies are starvation, war and death.

Groundwater is usually found at a depth of 50 meters below ground level.

"This depth allows rain to compensate for water usage. Yet due to the scarcity of water in the sedimentary rock areas, the Arabian Shield areas can be used due to its heavy rainfalls and can feed groundwater,” he said.

“But this needs to be a broad plan to invest in rainfall areas effectively," he said.

Al-Ghamdi said that the mountains of the Arabian Shield or Al-Sarat Mountains are higher than the Tihama plains, and that this geological structure must be invested in to feed groundwater supplies and utilize it agriculturally.