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Oil and water don’t mix. But in the desert of Saudi Arabia, they do have something in common. They are both nonrenewable resources.

Almost no agriculture is visible in the 1986 Landsat image of the barren Wadi As-Sirhan basin. Then, in each successive image, more green dots appear in the desert. Each green dot is an agricultural field watered by a center-pivot irrigation system.

Water is pumped from an underground aquifer to irrigate the fields of fruit, vegetables, and wheat. Most of this aquifer, called the al-Disi aquifer, is located under the Saudi Arabian desert, but some of it extends northwest into Jordan. Water scarcity in this region brings the potential for conflict.

Imagery

Every picture has a story to tell
Feb. 2, 1986, Landsat 5 (path/row 172/39) — center-pivot irrigation, Saudi Arabia
Feb. 24, 1991, Landsat 4 (path/row 172/39) — center-pivot irrigation, Saudi Arabia
Mar. 4, 2000, Landsat 7 (path/row 172/39) — center-pivot irrigation, Saudi Arabia
Feb. 25, 2003, Landsat 7 (path/row 172/39) — center-pivot irrigation, Saudi Arabia
Aug. 23, 2013, Landsat 8 (path/row 172/39) — center-pivot irrigation, Saudi Arabia
Feb. 21, 2016, Landsat 8 (path/row 172/39) — center-pivot irrigation, Saudi Arabia
Mar. 14, 2018, Landsat 8 (path/row 172/39) — center-pivot irrigation, Saudi Arabia
March 3, 2020, Landsat 8 (path/row 172/39) — center-pivot irrigation, Saudi Arabia
Feb. 13, 2022, Landsat 9 (path/row 172/39) — center-pivot irrigation, Saudi Arabia

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References

Dziuban, M., 2011, Water and national strength in Saudi Arabia—Analysis Paper: Center for Strategic & International Studies, Washington, DC, available online at https://csis.org/publication/water-and-national-strength-saudi-arabia. (Accessed April 24, 2013.)

Long, B.R., 2003, Middle East water conflict—The battle over the Al-Disi Aquifer: American University, Washington, DC, available online at https://mandalaprojects.com/ice/ice-cases/aquifer.htm. (Accessed April 24, 2013.)

NASA, 2012, Agricultural fields, Wadi As-Sirhan Basin, Saudi Arabia: NASA Earth Observatory, available at http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=77300. (Accessed December 10, 2012.)

NASA, 2012, Crop circles in the desert: NASA Earth Observatory, available at http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=77900. (Accessed December 10, 2012.)

UNEP, 2005, Cropland—Al’ Isawiyah, Saudi Arabia, in One planet, many people—atlas of our changing environment: Nairobi, Kenya, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), p. 198–199.

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, 2016, Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) Report—Saudi Arabia—Grain and Feed Annual: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, accessed June 17, 2016, at http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/Grain%20and%20Feed%20Annual_Riyadh_Saudi%20Arabia_3-14-2016.pdf.

World Cities, 2013, Tubarjal: World Cities, Encyclopedia of World Populations, available online at http://www.worldcities.us/Tubarjal. (Accessed December 10, 2012.)

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