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47

Géosciences

• numéro 2 • septembre 2005

>

Saq aquifer and its importance in the development of socioeconomic

activities in major provinces in Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia occupies an

area of about 2.2 M km 2 of the Arabian

Peninsula, and sits between two huge bodies

of water, the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf.

It faces water scarcity as it is in an arid region

with little rainfall, and lacks lakes, running

rivers, streams, and flowing springs.

The government is recognized for its

efforts in tackling these problems in many

different ways, in particular through invest-

ment in groundwater studies to enable

management of water resources, and to

maintain socioeconomic development.

Groundwater resources need compre-

hensive geological study, and collection of

massive amounts of hydro geological data to

analyse the current situation. This requires

competent experts with expertise in the field

of geology and the geographical area.

In early 1980's, BRGM carried out a very

important study in Saudi Arabia on the SAQ

aquifer.This aquifer is important by its huge

size, 375 000 km 2 . The region also has enor-

mous agricultural activity, and much of

population work in the agro-business sector,

in particular in wheat growing. The govern-

ment encourages this through subsidies and

incentives to farmers, who have conse-

quently invested heavily in agriculture and

related business.

There is controversy as to whether or not

this development strategy has seriously

imbalanced water availability in the region.

The new SAQ study initiated by the Ministry

of Water and Electricity was awarded to an

ATC/BRGMconsortium,to investigate,update,

and evaluate the groundwater resources,

and to test the findings, verify the data, and

recommend strategies. Sophisticatedmodel-

ling software and advanced GIS technology

have been underpinned development of a

sound study.This scienceand technology-based

approach combined with the capabilities of

ATC - engineering, procurement, installation,

testing and commissioning, project support

services,and support with prospective clients -

have been key to the success of this study.