Monday, February 08, 2021

Monitoring precious groundwater resources for arid agricultural regions

A pioneering framework will monitor groundwater use for agricultural irrigation across Saudi Arabia.


​A framework designed to provide detailed information on agricultural groundwater use in arid regions has been developed by KAUST researchers in collaboration with the Saudi Ministry of Environment Water and Agriculture (MEWA). 

“Groundwater is a precious resource, but we don’t pay for it to grow our food, we just pump it out,” says Oliver López, who worked on the project with KAUST's Matthew McCabe and co-workers. “When something is free, we are less likely to keep track of it, but it is critical that we measure groundwater extraction because it impacts both food and water security, not just regionally, but globally.”

Saudi Arabia’s farmland is often irrigated via center pivots that tap underground aquifer sources. The team has built a powerful tool that captures details of water use from the regional scale down to individual fields. “This is the first operational system in the world for monitoring and modeling agricultural water use at such fine spatial and time scales,” notes López.

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Image: Crops in Saudi Arabia are often irrigated via center pivots that tap underground aquifer sources, which are rapidly depleting.
© 2021 KAUST; Prof. McCabe's HALO Research Group

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