The government of Saudi Arabia has given the green light to a cloud-seeding programme which could increase precipitation in the country by about 20%, informs Utilities Middle East.
After studying practices globally and visiting other countries to learn from their experiences with cloud seeding, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture worked on the development of the programme which has now been approved.
It aims to provide extra water resources to face the growing water demand in the country, driven by population growth, as well as by growth in different sectors, namely agriculture, industry, energy, transportation and mining.
Saudia Arabia is a very arid country, receiving less than 100 millimetres of rain per year. Groundwater is the major source of water, and meets 80 to 85 per cent of the total demand, but groundwater extraction is unsustainable, as the rate of withdrawal is higher than the rate of replenishment. To meet its water demand, the country has turned to seawater desalination, with a production of four million cubic metres of desalinated water per day.
The ministry explained that the programme will target clouds with certain characteristics, suitable for cloud-seeding efforts. Precipitation is enhanced by sowing condensation nuclei in the right clouds. The technology could increase precipitation by up to 70%, depending on the characteristics of the clouds. In fact, identifying and locating the best clouds for the purpose is the main challenge in this type of weather modification, according to Dr. Roelof Bruintjes, chair of the WMO Expert Team on Weather Modification. While cloud seeding could be a tool to enhance water resources, it does need clouds to be present.
The Kingdom has been looking into cloud-seeding possibilities since 1976, jointly with the WMO; the first experiments were done in 1990 in the Asir region, through an agreement with the university of Wyoming. Follow up experiments elsewhere in the country with Saudi scientists have shown the seeding potential of available clouds.