Water and National Strength in Saudi Arabia

Of all the manifestations of Saudi Arabia's spectacular development over the past half century, none presents a starker set of contrasts than water. Oil has helped finance rapid urban development and generous philanthropic and humanitarian projects around the world. But it has also allowed the Saudi government to provide a resource that is anything but plentiful in the country's arid environment. "Turning oil into water," as one historian puts it, has allowed the government to turn an environment of scarcity into an environment of plenty, with huge benefits for the kingdom's national security and national strength.