Washington, US: Images from three different Landsat satellites revealed hidden reserves of water in the Syrian Desert. The satellite images showed that Saudi Arabia has been busy digging for a resource possibly more precious than oil – water for agriculture.
Over the last 24 years, the country has tapped hidden reserves of water to grow wheat and other crops in the Syrian Desert, according to the NASA’s press statement. The green fields that dot the desert in the images draw on water that in part was trapped during the last Ice Age, and the ‘fossil’ water is now in aquifers that are buried deep under the desert’s shifting sands.
Water for directly irrigating the fields is reached in the underground rivers and lakes by drilling through the desert floor. Because rainfall in the area is only about an inch a year, the underground water is a non-renewable resource, and hydrologists estimate it will only be economical to pump water for about 50 years.
In this series of four Landsat images, the agricultural fields are about one kilometre (.62 miles) across. The images were created using reflected light from the short wave-infrared, near-infrared, and green portions of the electromagnetic spectrum (bands 7, 4, and 2 from Landsat 4 and 5 TM and Landsat 7 ETM+ sensors). Using this combination of wavelengths, healthy vegetation appears bright green while dry vegetation appears orange. Barren soil is a dark pink, and urban areas, like the town of Tubarjal at the top of each image, have a purple hue.