Desert crops in Saudi Arabia thrive as the aquifer shrinks

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A handout photo made available by NASA Earth Observatory of a satellite image showing the spread of agriculture around the town of Wadi ad-Dawasir, Saudi Arabia, 26 April 2017 (issued 16 December 2019).

Saudi Arabia has sought to support groundwater and irrigation to green-up portions of the desert as the country’s population grows.

Since the area receives less than 200 millimeters of rain per year, farmers make use of pumped groundwater and center-pivot irrigation systems to grow crops, mainly wheat, alfalfa, and vegetables.

The sustained pumping of this water has had a major impact on the aquifer beneath Wadi ad-Dawasir. According to a UN report, the water table in this area has dropped by six millimeters per year since the 1980s, fast enough that hydrologists think the aquifer could be depleted within a few decades.

Desert crops thrive as the aquifer shrinks

 

Photo: EPA-EFE/NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY HANDOUT

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