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Policy Options for Reducing Water for Agriculture in Saudi Arabia

Part of the Water Resources Development and Management book series (WRDM)


As populations and economies grow, a megatrend that will increasingly affect both developed and emerging economies is the policy trade -off between managing water resources and achieving food security objectives. This policy trade-off is very relevant in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, which represent some of the most water scarce regions of the world and are also intent on achieving food security through domestic agriculture production. We offer a case study on the policy options for reducing water consumption while maintaining food security and farmer welfare in the GCC’s largest country, Saudi Arabia . Specifically, we explore how crop substitution can reduce aggregate water use without compromising the current level of food security or farmer welfare. Additionally, we assess the potential social implications of crop substitution options in order to better understand the political feasibility of various policy choices. The results suggest that if water usage is to be minimised while maintaining food production and farmer welfare , then the primary candidates for reduction are crops or livestock with large water intensity and low revenue and/or low production. Eliminating these types of crops would yield higher water savings than moderate reductions across a large portfolio of crops at the lowest political cost.


  • Saudi Arabia
  • Water conservation
  • Food security
  • Linear programme
  • Political bargaining

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Fig. 12.1

Sources FAO (2015), Min. of Agriculture (2014)

Fig. 12.2
Fig. 12.3
Fig. 12.4
Fig. 12.5


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The authors would like to thank Mathieu Carey and Berenice Garcia Tellez for their research assistance.

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Correspondence to Christopher Napoli .

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Appendix 1

Appendix 1

Table 12.3 includes production values referenced from Saudi Arabia Ministry of Agriculture, Water Footprint data from (Multsch et al. 2013). Revenue data were extracted from the FAO’s statistics database (FAO 2015). Data exceptions include Water footprint data for cabbages, eggs, fresh fruits, milk (cow, camel and goat), meat (camel, chicken cow, goat and sheep) , honey, nuts, and pulses), which extracted from (Mekonnen and Hoekstra 2010).

Table 12.3 Data input for linear programming model

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Napoli, C., Wise, B., Wogan, D., Yaseen, L. (2018). Policy Options for Reducing Water for Agriculture in Saudi Arabia. In: Biswas, A., Tortajada, C., Rohner, P. (eds) Assessing Global Water Megatrends. Water Resources Development and Management. Springer, Singapore.

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