To cite this publication: Ameen Kim and Hans van der Beek, “A Holistic Assessment of the Water-for-Agriculture Dilemma in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” CIRS Occasional Paper no. 19 (Doha, Qatar: Center for International and Regional Studies, 2018).
Prior to the emergence of the oil industry and the subsequent rapid agricultural expansion of the 1970s, there has been little to no concern about water for agriculture in Saudi Arabia since prehistoric times. However, a rapid expansion—a so-called “agricultural revolution”—introduced rampant use of highly water-consuming irrigation systems, mainly by center pivots, without any limitation. This has greatly compromised the future of nonrenewable water availability for agriculture. Current measures to alleviate the dilemma of water scarcity and sustainable agricultural development for the country have been challenging not only due to technical difficulties, but also because of overarching ideological and political factors. Based on the concluding findings in this article, a holistic approach combining both technical and sociopolitical recommendations is proposed, and is presented for alleviating the predicament.