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Saudi Arabia

Water use

It is estimated that in 2006 total water withdrawal was at 23.7 km3, an increase of 40 percent compared to 1992, shared between the various sectors as follows: agriculture 88 percent, municipal 9 percent, and industry 3 percent (Table 3 and Figure 1). The boom in desert agriculture tripled the volume of water used for irrigation from about 6.8 km3 in 1980 to about 21 km3 in 2006. The total surface water and groundwater withdrawal represented 943 percent of the total renewable water resources. Groundwater resources of Saudi Arabia are being depleted at a very fast rate. Most water withdrawn comes from fossil, deep aquifers and some predictions suggest that these resources may not last more than about 25 years. The quality of the abstracted water is also likely to deteriorate with time because of the flow of low quality water in the same aquifers towards the core of the depression at the point of use. In 2003 there were 5 661 government wells assigned for municipal purposes and 106 370 multipurpose private wells. Treated wastewater is used to irrigate non-edible crops, for landscape irrigation and for industrial cooling, while desalinated water is used for municipal purposes (Figure 2).


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