A decade ago, reports began emerging of a strange occurrence in the Saudi Arabian desert. Ancient desert springs were drying up.
The springs fed the lush oases depicted in the Bible and Quran, and as the water disappeared, these verdant gardens of life were returning to sand.
...But the bounty didn’t last. Today, Saudi Arabia’s agriculture is collapsing. It’s almost out of water. And the underlying cause doesn’t bode well for farmers in places like California’s Central Valley, where desert lands also are irrigated with groundwater that is increasingly in short supply. Here’s a look at what happened, and what the United States, China and the rest of the world can learn from Saudi Arabia.
...Saudi Arabia will no longer be in the wheat farming business.
The government announced next year’s wheat harvest will be the country’s last. The Saudis are drinking desalinated water from the ocean – a process too expensive to irrigate farmland.
Agricultural production is in free fall. The country has less than half the farmland it did in the mid-1990s, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.