Since the discovery of oil in 1938, KSA has become a major oil exporting nation. This led to rapid growth in population and economic capacity, causing the demand for resources to exceed the country’s natural resources. As the water, energy and food sectors are strongly linked, measures need to be taken across these sectors in order to increase sustainability.
Historically, KSA has exploited groundwater from non-renewable aquifers. It also obtains water through desalination, often using oil, which heightens the country’s reliance on fossil fuels. As part of the National Water Strategy 2025, KSA aims to increase renewable-powered desalination, and the reuse of wastewater. Furthermore, the amount of water used for irrigation can be reduced by replacing water-intensive crops with crops that require less water.
In 2016, 41% of KSA’s electricity was produced from oil, and 59% from gas. At 40 barrels per capita, KSA has the highest oil consumption in the world. In order to maintain energy security, the energy supply needs to be diversified. The National Renewable Energy Program has a target of 3.45 GW of renewable energy by 2020, and 9.5 GW by 2023. The government is looking to invest in and develop projects in, for example, solar and nuclear power.
KSA imports 80% of its food requirements. The country is scaling up sustainable agriculture in order to enhance food security. The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA) is introducing and financing programs with the aim of adopting water-saving agricultural solutions. The focus lies on horticulture, aquaculture and poultry. Additionally, KSA has founded the Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company (SALIC), which secures access to strategic agriculture commodities through foreign agricultural investments.
Source: Water-Energy-Food Nexus in KSA, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Saudi Arabia