What can we do to keep our water flowing?
Our precious water supply is dwindling and our consumption is rising, so I interviewed Saudi environmental activist Najwa Al Bukhari about what we could do to protect it.
Najwa, what’s our water situation?
Being a desert country, 85-90 percent of what we’ve been consuming is nonrenewable fossilized water in the ground. This is ancient water that had collected thanks to thousands of years of rainfall in the western mountainous region and filling a desert basin across the country.
We’ve been relying on that basin for our homes, industry and agriculture for decades. Based on the 2014 National Water Strategy Report, 80 percent of it has gone to local agriculture that has been unable to fulfill its goal of food self-sufficiency.
What does this mean for us?
We have to change our mindset from consumption consumption consumption and think about what we can do to reverse things.
So what can we do?
I always look for hope. Where I’ve found it is in permaculture, a farming system that has been able to bring rain back to arid lands.
Trees bring about clouds and the more we plant smartly the more likely we will stop the dust storms that are an ever-present reality for us, which is a far cry from the blue skies of my childhood.
In permaculture there are certain trees that are planted in desert climates, with root systems that go vertically instead of horizontally, and they go very deep.
Great, so we just go out and plant trees everywhere then?
We still have a lot to study. Where to plant and what to plant is critical to this equation and we need to learn from how others such as Kenya, a region in China and Jordan did it. There’s even a project near Makkah implementing these very principles.
If we put our minds together and seek experts – like Geoff Lawton who’s in Jordan – then there’s hope. There are databases that say what grows best at what latitude and there are individuals in the government who are willing to help.
Helping our government empowers everyone and our government has carried the brunt of our water expenses for too long. Permaculture directly addresses the root cause and helps us fix our water and dust storm problems.