Saudi approves cloud seeding programme to increase rainfall by 20%

The kingdom currently receives less than 100 millimetres of rainfall a year

Picture courtesy: SPA

Saudi Arabia is set to adopt a new cloud-seeding programme that aims to increase rainfall in the kingdom by almost 20 per cent, it was reported on Thursday.

The Saudi Cabinet approved the programme, which was developed after a review of global practices and visits to other countries in the region to study their experiences of cloud seeding, according to the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

The ministry said the programme targets specific types of clouds and stressed that process does not create clouds; it only increases rainfall by providing cloud condensation nuclei.

The move comes amidst increasing demand for water resources due to a rising population as well as growth in the industrial, energy, transportation, mining and agricultural sectors, where demand for water has almost reached 24 billion cubic metres a year, local daily Arab News reported.

The kingdom, which currently receives less than 100 millimetres of rainfall a year, depends primarily on groundwater resources, although it also carries out seawater desalination.

Saudi began studying cloud seeding in 1976 and has conducted several experiments since then, the report added.

Neighbouring UAE has also invested heavily in cloud-seeding and regularly carries out operations to increase rainfall.

According to the UAE’s National Centre for Meteorology, the UAE carried out 184 cloud seeding operations in 2018, and witnessed 46.5 millimetres of rainfall with the figures rising to 101.1 millimetres of rainfall in 2019, with 247 operations undertaken.

The NCM carries out seeding operations in conjunction with weather radars. Special planes fitted with flares fire potassium chloride, sodium chloride and magnesium into clouds during operations that last between two and three hours, according to reports.

Here’s how the process works –