Project Under Way To Induce Artificial Rains Nationwide

RIYADH, 22 August 2005 — An SR75 million project to induce artificial rains by injecting and seeding moisture-heavy clouds will be launched before the end of this year. The successful test run carried out in the Asir province last summer encouraged the authorities to design a national artificial rain project to cover all regions of the Kingdom, Naif Selhu, director of environmental awareness at the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME), said here yesterday.

The Kingdom receives only 100 millimeters of rainfall annually, which is inadequate to meet household, industrial and agricultural needs. Besides its increasing reliance on desalinated water, the rapid industrial and urban growth together with the improved standard of living have resulted in a sharp rise in the annual demand for fresh water that already exceeds the Kingdom’s renewable resource by six percent.

Selhu said the results of studies conducted after the experimental phase were positive. “More than 60 percent of the rains in Asir last year was artificially induced. The process enabled clouds to ‘live’ longer, absorb more moisture and induce a significant increase in rainfall,” Selhu said.

“The Asir experience cost us more than SR3.75 million,” said the PME official, adding that the project was designed to replenish the country’s underground water reserves which are diminishing rapidly. He, however, pointed that artificial rains could only be induced when rain clouds were formed by nature and then they were fertilized artificially.

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 Selhu. He said that the project would be carried out under the supervision of American experts.

The project seems to be a viable alternative in a desert country like Saudi Arabia, said a report published recently. One of the driest countries in the world with extremely sparse rainfall, the Kingdom occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula and its topography varies from vast stretches of sand to rugged mountain ranges.

Asir is the only province, which receives regular rainfall and has terraced farms and green forests. Two large oases, Qatif and Hofuf, support substantial agricultural production in the country.

Estimates of the lifespan for Saudi fossil water reserves vary widely, with one estimate suggesting they could run out early next century. Hence, the need to produce water by any means is essential in a country like Saudi Arabia, whose population is projected to exceed 40 million by 2025.

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