RIYADH: The Saudi cabinet has approved a cloud-seeding program that aims to increase rainfall in the Kingdom by almost 20 percent.
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture said the program was developed after a review of global practices and visits to other countries in the region to study their experiences of cloud seeding. It is a response to the growing pressure placed on water resources by population growth, in addition to significant growth in the industrial, energy, transportation, mining and agricultural sectors, where demand for water has almost reached 24 billion cubic meters a year.
The Kingdom is one of the world’s most arid countries, with less than 100 millimeters of rainfall a year. Almost 2.7 billion cubic meters of seawater are desalinated each year, but about 80 to 85 percent of the Kingdom’s demand is met by groundwater sources. This rate of extraction is greater than the rate of replacement, given the low rainfall.
The ministry said the cloud-seeding program targets specific types of clouds, using their physical properties to stimulate rainfall. Catalysts are sown, some of which are natural, in these clouds to release the largest possible amount of water. The ministry stressed that cloud-seeding does not create clouds; instead, it increases rainfall by providing cloud condensation nuclei.
The Kingdom began studying cloud seeding in 1976 in partnership with the World Meteorological Organization. An agreement was signed with the University of Wyoming, in the US, to conduct the first cloud-seeding experiments, which took place in Asir in 1990. The experiments have continued in the Kingdom’s central regions, specifically Riyadh, Qassim and Hail, as well as the northwest and southwest, with the participation of a group of specialist Saudi scientists. The results proved that the clouds have seeding potential.