Saudi Arabia is running out of water, according to Deputy Minister for Water and Electricity Abdullah Al Hussayen, and no one really knows how much water is left.
The local daily Arab News reported that the last study on groundwater was done some 25 years ago and test wells show marked declines in water level.
Al Hussayen commented: "We have hired hydrological consultants to study the two major aquifers in the King-dom. Within two years, we shall be in a better position to assess."
Agricultural projects, many of which were designed to encourage Bedouin settlement, have increased water resource exploitation. Historically, improperly drilled wells reduced their effectiveness by leaching the lands they were meant to irrigate. In the early 1990s, large-scale agricultural projects relied mainly on underground aquifers, which then provided more than 80% of water for agricultural use. In 1987, agriculture consumed about 90% of the total water demand in the Kingdom and has not changed significantly.
"Groundwater can fulfil much of the domestic requirement. It is much cheaper (than desalinated water), and in many cases, closer to the consumption centre," he added.