The First Middle East Regional Conference on Irrigation and Drainage
26-28 / February / 2024



During the last decades, the sustainability and management of water resources have drawn international attention due to freshwater limitations as well as low rainfall. These challenges are aggravated by the impacts of climate change, increasing world population, and growing energy along with water use, expressing more severe food insecurity and scarcity, especially in the arid and semi-arid regions where water shortage is severe and conventional resources are limited and for some part non-renewable. Therefore, efficient and sustainable management of water resources is of utmost importance. Moreover, the production and reuse of unconventional water resources have become an alternative for the unsustainable water resources. For example, treated wastewater and desalinated seawater have attracted international attention for irrigation, introducing them as avenues to mitigate these challenges and satisfy water demand. Water is a challenge for development in the MENA region countries more than any other regions. To overcome such a challenge, the MENA region countries are investing in water infrastructures, water storage and irrigation systems. Furthermore, the MENA area is a global leader in the utilization of non-conventional water technologies, including desalination and wastewater re-use. The MENA region consumes more water than their renewable resources can support. More than half of the water is withdrawn because agriculture does not meet the crop water requirements due to inefficient irrigation systems (FAO). Between 2005 and 2050, it is predicted that the world's food production will need to increase by almost 70% (FAO) and developing countries must double their food production. The emphasis will need to be on increasing agricultural and water productivity with effective and optimal use of available resources because more food production will need to come from the same finite amount of land and water resources. Adopting suitable agricultural water governance and improving resilience to climate change effects are primordial. Some actions are important such as better agricultural techniques, improving water productivity and expanding the area irrigated, rehabilitating and modernizing the irrigation systems that are already in place, reforming institutional structures, promoting demand water management and water saving within the agricultural sector are necessary. In this regard, resilient agriculture will play a significant role in satisfying rising demand in the face of more competitive and unstable markets and rising (frequencies and intensities) extreme events brought on by climate change. Furthermore, good management of conventional and non-conventional water resources, together with applying innovative technologies could increase efficiency on safe water production and reuse for irrigation application, especially those systems that are equipped with smart irrigation technologies that possess the ability to control the water flow, quantity and supply nutrients to plants.


  • The International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) organizes regional conferences at four regions of the world: African Region, European Region, Asian Region, and Pan- American Region. Accordingly, the 1st Middle East Regional Conference on Irrigation and Drainage will be hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during 26-28 February 2023 in Riyadh, and organized by Saudi Irrigation Organization (SIO) and Saudi Committee of Irrigation and Drainage (SACID) in partnership with ICID.
  • The 1st Middle East Regional Conference on Irrigation “MERCID” will focus on the main topic of “Irrigation Sector and Sustainable Development” in conditions of aridity and water scarcity and within framework of renewable and non-renewable water resources, and production and reuse of non-conventional water resources such as treated wastewater. It will be an opportunity to highlight several key lessons that can be applied in the irrigation sector worldwide: (i) the trends in irrigation development and management, the ongoing and planned programs in the countries and regions and the requested capacity building to fulfill the targets, (ii) techniques and technologies are also discussed in addition to treated wastewater (several views from efficient to safe reuse) reuse, drainage and soil fertility and plant impacts, desalination for irrigation and learned lessons, water harvesting and dams operation for irrigation, (iii) and finally practical added value of technologies such as Data collection and organization for Decision Support Systems and artificial intelligence applied to irrigation.
  • The Kingdom Saudi Arabia (KSA) is hosting the Conference. The country is within Western Asia, bordered by the Red Sea to the West , Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait to the north; the Arabian Gulf, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to the east; Oman to the southeast; and Yemen to the south (fig 1). Its capital and largest city is Riyadh. The country is home to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities in Islam.
  • The country has a tropical and subtropical desert climate, with most regions experiencing high temperatures and arid conditions due to dry winds. Average summer temperatures are around 45 °C (113 °F), but can be as high as 54 °C (129 °F) at its most extreme. In the winter the temperature rarely drops below 0 °C (32 °F) with the exception of mostly the northern regions of the country where annual snowfall, in particular in the mountainous regions of Tabuk province, is not uncommon. The annual rainfall is low not exceeding 150 mm in most parts of the Kingdom, except the Southern regions where an average of 300 mm (12 in) of rainfall occurs. The average elevation of the country is 665 meters above sea level, with its highest mountain peak, standing at 3,002 meters.
  • The Kingdom has limited non-renewable groundwater resources with low aquifer replenishment rates, due to the arid climatic conditions. Water requirements in the Kingdom (which were estimated in 2015 at about 24.8 billion cubic meters) is witnessing a steady annual increase of 7%. The agricultural sector is the largest consumer of water in the Kingdom, accounting for 84% of the total demand (National water Strategy).
  • In view of the high dependence on non-renewable groundwater ( up to 90% of the total demand), targets were set to raise on farm irrigation efficiency up 75% in 2030, in addition to enforcing an ambitious reduction in the quantity of non-renewable groundwater use by 2030 (National water Strategy).
  • Saudi Arabia has increased access to clean water and improved sanitation services, particularly in rural areas. The government has improved the water and wastewater infrastructure, increasing the population’s access to drinking water, reducing water waste and improving water use efficiency. The government has taken steps to address water scarcity through various initiatives, such as water desalination, reuse of treated wastewater, development of renewable groundwater, harvesting of rain water and implementation of efficient irrigation systems.
  • The government has invested in upgrading wastewater treatment facilities and improving the management of wastewater to reduce the impact of wastewater on public health and the environment and provide ample volumes of tertiary treated water, which can be repurposed for a range of applications including agriculture, industry, and urban activities, in compliance with established standards and guidelines. By 2030, the total produced treated wastewater is envisaged to reach 10.3 million m3/day. Accordingly, an ambitious target is set to raise treated sewage water reuse from 22.55 % in 2022, to 80% of the total quantity produced by the year 2030 (National water Strategy).
  • Significant reforms are made in the irrigation sector including restructuring of the Saudi irrigation Organization to lead, manage and develop the irrigation sector in the Kingdom, phasing out intensive water consuming crops, such as wheat, alfalfa and fodder, application of modern irrigation methods and practices, tariff reforms and incentive programs.
  • Surface water resources in Saudi Arabia are limited and mainly concentrated in the southwestern region of the country, where rainfall is relatively high. The country has a few major wadis or riverbeds, such as the Wadi Hanifah, which have been developed for agricultural and recreational purposes. However, most of these wadis are seasonal and dry up during the summer months, leaving the country with very limited surface water resources.
  • Efforts to increase water availability and storage capacity have led to the implementation of over 550 water dams, with a combined storage capacity of approximately 2.6 billion cubic meters. Additionally, the "Agricultural Terraces Rehabilitation and Rainwater Harvesting Techniques Implementation in Southwestern Saudi Arabia" initiative has been established as part of Vision 2030, further bolstering water conservation strategies. In addition to several innovative solutions, including the use of desalinated seawater and treated wastewater for irrigation and other purposes, strict water conservation measures, such as the regulation of water consumption and the promotion of water-saving technologies.

Invitation From Secretary General of Organization: Ashwin B. Pandya

To: All the Prospective Participants Subject: First Middle East Regional Conference for Irrigation and Drainage schedule from 26 to 28 February, 2024 at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Dear ICID Members, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, The International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) is the leading scientific, technical and professional international organization, which focuses on irrigation, drainage and flood management. For more information on ICID, kindly visit Agricultural Water Management has a strong relationship with regional conditions. For providing focus on the regional issues, ICID organizes Regional Conferences on themes of interest to its members in a particular region. These Regional Conferences provide a common platform to countries in these regions to address the issues and problems specific to that particular region. Saudi National Committee for Irrigation and Drainage (SACID) and Saudi Irrigation Organization in collaboration with ICID is organizing the “First Middle East Regional Conference for Irrigation and Drainage” schedule from 26 to 28 February, 2024 at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The conference will provide a scientific platform to review many important issues related to the future of irrigation and water resource management for the irrigation sector in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The conference also aims to provide sustainable solutions for water resource management and to increase the adoption of modern irrigation technologies to raise integrated water management On behalf of Saudi National Committee for Irrigation and Drainage (SACID) and Saudi Irrigation Organization, it is an honour for me to invite all National Committees, water and agriculture professionals, policy makers from different countries to participate in the “First Middle East Regional Conference for Irrigation and Drainage” being held at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and make it a grand success. Your participation in this event would provide an opportunity to interact and exchange of knowledge and experience with a large number of experts in the field of agriculture water management who are likely to participate in the event. Looking forward for your active participation. Yours sincerely,

Invitation From Chairman of The National Committee of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (SACID): Mr. Amjad Abdullah Al Majid

Dear Esteemed Colleague, I am writing to you today as the Chairman of the Saudi National Committee for Irrigation and Drainage (SACID), an organization committed to advancing scientific knowledge and promoting educational activities in the field of water management. Our role as a representative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia within the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) is one we take very seriously, and we strive to contribute to global dialogue and cooperation in this crucial sector. We are proud to announce that we will be hosting the first ever Middle East Regional Conference on Irrigation and Drainage in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. This event, scheduled from February 26 to 28, 2024, is a significant milestone in fostering regional collaboration and knowledge sharing in irrigation and drainage. The theme of the conference will be "Integrated Management of the Irrigation Sector for Resilient and Sustainable Development". This theme not only represents our commitment to sustainable water management practices, but also underscores the need for adaptability and resilience in the face of climate change and other emerging challenges. This conference will serve as a platform for professionals, researchers, and stakeholders to share insights and experiences, and to explore innovative solutions in the field of irrigation and drainage. We believe that your participation would greatly enrich the discussions and contribute to the success of this event. Together, we can shape a future where water resources are managed in a way that not only meets our current needs, but also ensures the sustainability of these precious resources for generations to come. We sincerely hope that you will accept this invitation to participate in the Middle East Regional Conference on Irrigation and Drainage. Your presence and contributions would be greatly appreciated, and we look forward to welcoming you in Riyadh. Yours sincerely,

Invitation From The President of ICID: Prof. Dr. Ragab Ragab

Dear Friends, Irrigation and drainage Practitioners, and ICID members It is with great pleasure, I welcome you all to the First Middle East Regional Conference which is scheduled to be held from 26-28 February 2024 at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on the theme: "Irrigation Development and Sustainability". First of all, I would like to thank the Saudi Irrigation Organization (SIO) for hosting this event. The Middle East is a water stressed region and most of its water supplies are originated outside the region. The current imbalance between water supply and demand due to the population growth and climate change, requires practical and immediate actions to meet the current and future challenges of water and food security. The world is facing a number of challenges. The recent Climate change conference COP6 & 27 in Glasgow followed by Cairo highlighted some important impacts on water resources and food security. At the same time put on our shoulders the task of adaptation and mitigation to the climate change given agriculture contributes 30% of greenhouse gasses emission and consumes above 70% of fresh water resources. In addition to climate change, we are facing other challenges associated with doubling the food production using the same amount of the limited water resources to feed 9.8 billion by 2050, and the possible 50% increase in energy and water use by 2050. ICID 2030 vision is a step forward towards providing solutions based on new technologies to address these challenges. Increasing water use efficiency and water productivity, moving from paddy rice to drip rice to save water and reduce methane emission, modernization of irrigation systems, smart and precise irrigation such as Nano-irrigation, low flow drip irrigation and Centre Pivot with variable irrigation rates, use of non-conventional water resources and non-conventional crops, increasing water supplies by rainwater harvesting at different scales and recharging the groundwater aquifer, are few examples of the ICID Working Groups activities to meet those challenges. In addition, ICID has established a working group to address the Water-Food-Energy Nexus in a holistic and integrated approach to reflect the interdependency between water, food and energy. Dear Participants We need water to produce food. Globally, Irrigation represents over 70% of fresh water resources consumption. While population is on the increase, the water resources are not. We need to use more efficient irrigation systems and strategies. This conference, will present the most up-to-date technologies and approaches in irrigation and drainage management to meet the current and future challenges to secure water and food for the region and similar regions around the world. Finally, I would like to thanks the Host country Saudi Arabia for organizing the first regional meeting. I look forward to meeting you all at the conference.

Invitation From President of The Saudi Irrigation Organization: Dr. Fuad bin Ahmed Al Sheikh Mubarak

On behalf of the the Saudi Irrigation Organization (SIO), the Saudi National Committee for Irrigation and Drainage (SACID) and International Commission on Irrigation and drainage (ICID), It gives me great pleasure to invite you to attend and participate in the the 1st Middle East Regional Conference on Irrigation “MERCID”. The conference will be held in Riyadh the Capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on 26 - 28th February 2024, where the weather is good at the conference time (average temperature 23°c) and it is few hours from the Holy mosques, Macca and Madinah. I think it is a great privilege for (SACID) to be awarded the opportunity to host the Regional Conference on Irrigation and drainage which will be the first event in the Middle East that provides opportunity to present interesting and up to date developments in the field of irrigation and drainage. It will be a platform to discuss the major challenges facing the irrigation sector and review several persistent issues pertained to the future of irrigation and water resources management such as for example: the impacts of climate change, the rapid population growth, the continuously depleting water resources, the deteriorating water quality and the water resources pollution. The theme of this conference will be “Integrated Irrigation Sector Management for Resilient and Sustainable Development", which will be a great chance to exchange experiences with a wide community of professionals, specialists, researchers and a broad range of other stakeholders to share their knowledge and experience focusing on irrigation management and its related aspects. During the two-day period of the conference, the organizers are liaising several events that include business face-to-face meetings, sessions, presentations, exhibitions, panels as well as field trips to the UNESCO heritage locations such as Al-Ahsa which the biggest oasis worldwide and Al Ula area. Allow me again to heartily welcome you to be part of this important conference.