Artificial Rains Project to Address Water Shortage
JEDDAH, 22 January 2007 — Saudi Arabia will expand its artificial rain program to cover all parts of the country in order to meet growing need for water for its increasing population as well as for agricultural and industrial purposes, according to Dr. Ahmed Ashour, the program’s general supervisor.
In comments published yesterday, Ashour said the official launch of the program would take place after six months. A team of 60 Saudi and American experts has been working on the project since last October, Ashour said, adding that the studies conducted by the team were encouraging.
“The result was beyond our expectations and much better than we had in the Asir region,” he said in reference to the successful test run carried out in the southern Asir region two years ago.
He said the studies to induce artificial rains in Riyadh by seeding moisture-laden clouds had so far cost SR10 million.
“This study will be completed within three months,” he said. The current experiment is carried out with the assistance of four planes that were used to locate cumulus clouds, he added.
Ashour said the team would go to the northern and western parts of the Kingdom after completing its studies in Riyadh, Qasim and Hail. “We have also a plan to carry out the experiment in the Rub Al-Khali or the Empty Quarter,” he pointed out.
The experiments are significant as the Kingdom receives only 100 millimeters of rainfall annually, which is inadequate to meet household, industrial and agricultural needs.
Saudi Arabia depends on desalination for 60 percent of its water needs, The rapid industrial and urban growth together with the improved standard of living has resulted in a sharp rise in the annual demand for fresh water.
The program to create artificial rains in the Asir region was successful as in the first year more than 60 percent of the rains received by the region were artificially induced. The process enables clouds to live longer, absorb more moisture and induce a significant increase in rainfall, said one expert. Artificial rains could only be induced when rain clouds were formed by nature.
Asir was chosen for the experimental run because rain clouds are over the region throughout the year. Naturally occurring clouds sometimes either whither away without raining or deliver inadequate rainfall. “Cloud-seeding planes will be used to inject and sprinkle materials to induce rainfall,” said the expert.
The project was designed to replenish the Kingdom’s underground water reserves, which are diminishing rapidly.