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What Saudi Arabia is doing to save water

Saudi Arabia’s self-sufficiency policy has led to the overconsumption of water, a resource that Saudi Arabia critically needs.
A worker stands at a desalination plant, 35 lm south of Riyadh, May 4, 2011. Long before it understood the value of oil, the desert kingdom of Saudi Arabia knew the worth of water. But the leading oil exporter's water challenges are growing as energy-intensive desalination erodes oil revenues while peak water looms more ominously than peak oil -- the theory that supplies are at or near their limit, with nowhere to go but down. Picture taken May 4, 2011. To match Feature SAUDI-WATER/ REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed
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Saudi Arabia represents a unique case of a country floating on vast oil wealth but lacking renewable water resources, which are necessary for its continued existence. The kingdom has no natural rivers, waterfalls or lakes. Half of its land is desert. And it has among the lowest yearly rainfall in the world, according to the most recent World Bank figures.

But nature is not the only reason why Saudi Arabia is lacking water. During the oil boom years that followed the rise of crude prices in 1973, Saudi Arabia faced the rising food demand by resorting to a self-sufficiency policy. It cultivated crops such as wheat, grains and fruits. At the same time, the higher demand for meat and dairy made the country expand its cultivation of green feed crops for cows and goats.

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