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Exporting water from the desert? An analysis of the virtual water content of Saudi Arabian agricultural exports


  • Ali Alsamawi
  • Joy Murray
  • Jorge Gómez-Paredes
  • Rachel C. Reyes


This study applies input-output analysis to evaluate and trace Saudi Arabia’s virtual water exports arising from exports of agricultural products. Saudi Arabia’s total virtual exports in 2011 were around 2.42 km3, mainly to neighbouring Arab countries. This amount is enough to meet the water demand of the country’s entire population. Agricultural exports seem economically beneficial only because they rely on groundwater; however, since the indirect cost of desalinating equivalent amounts of water for domestic purposes is much higher, a better strategy would have been to direct those water resources towards domestic needs.

Suggested Citation

  • Ali Alsamawi & Joy Murray & Jorge Gómez-Paredes & Rachel C. Reyes, 2018. "Exporting water from the desert? An analysis of the virtual water content of Saudi Arabian agricultural exports," International Journal of Water Resources Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(2), pages 292-304, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:cijwxx:v:34:y:2018:i:2:p:292-304
    DOI: 10.1080/07900627.2017.1294051

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