The Domestic water supply is one of Oman’s most pressing environmental issues.
- Oman has a limited supply of rainfall each year
Mean rainfall in coastal areas can be as low as 40mm annually. In mountain areas, this can reach up to 350mm. The total average annual rainfall is 62mm.
- Enough of a water supply has to be maintained for agriculture and domestic use. 94% of Oman’s water is used in agriculture, and 2% in industry.
- Rapid population growth in the North of Oman
- Overuse of water resources has lead to the soil near coastal regions becoming increasingly saturated with salt water, and increasingly saline.
Unconventional water sources make up 13% of the water supply of Oman, which means desalination techniques from salt water and reuse of waste water. Much of the waste water is used in irrigation and agriculture.
- Water is collected from fossil water sources; largely underwater springs in the desert.
At the moment, desert springs are largely used as an extra reserve supply in times of peak demand. Oman is making huge efforts to reduce its dependency on this supply of water.
The aquifers were originally produced during a period of time where Oman had a far wetter climate, and it is unlikely that they can naturally replenish in a warming planet, where less rain will fall in Oman.
- Piped water is available throughout the country.
- Effluent water is reused, once purified, to be used on crops.
In 2006, 37 million m^3 of water was reused from waste water.
- Dams have been built to store water
Since 1985, 31 dams have been built throughout Oman to control water flow and retain some of the peak discharge which would otherwise be lost and cause damage downstream. In 2006, maximum capacity was 88.4 million m^3 of water.
- The government in Oman has realised the detrimental effects of over using ground water; Oman has now started using a desalination technique on sea water, which has become Oman’s main source of drinking water
The Public Authority for Electricity and Water takes salt water from four separate sites, in Ghubra, Barka, Sohar, and Sur. Barka, Ghubra and Sohar all supply the more densely populated North on the Main Integrated System while Sur supplies the Ash Sharqiyah region (I couldn’t find Ghubra on a map; searching for it brings up a district within the capital, Muscat, a few blocks from the sea, o there is a reasonable chance that is correct. If it is, then Ghubra is still labelled within Muscat).
The Ghubra plant was built first. Barka has three smaller plants within it; two are reverse osmosis systems while the other is a thermal desalination plant.
To cope with the growing population, Oman is investing in two further water purification plants in Qurayyat and at the border between two districts; north and south Al Batinah. Work is also underway on pipelines to transport surface water to Muscat.
In 2006, the desalination plants were able to desalinate 109 million m^3 of water each year.