We estimate the near-surface velocity distribution over Wadi Qudaid in Saudi Arabia by applying early arrival waveform inversion (EWI) to shallow seismic land data collected with source-receiver offsets no longer than 232 m. The main purpose is to characterize the shallow subsurface for its water storage and reuse potential. To enhance the accuracy of EWI, we extracted a natural source wavelet from the data, and also corrected for the attenuation effects with an estimated factor Q. Results suggest that, compared to traveltime tomography, EWI can generate a highly resolved velocity tomogram from shallow seismic data. The more accurate EWI tomogram can make an economically important difference in assessing the storage potential of this wadi; in this case we find an increase of 18% of storage potential in the EWI tomogram relative to the traveltime tomogram. This approach suggests that FWI might be a more accurate means for economically characterizing the water storage potential for wadis’ throughout the world.