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Water for life

29 Nov 2020 By MOHAMMED TAHA

In efforts to support the agricultural sector in the sultanate, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources (MAFWR) restored 102 aflaj in 2019.

The falaj irrigation systems of Oman are decades old water channels located in several parts of the sultanate, a vast majority of these in Batinah, Sharqiyah and Dakhliyah.

MAFWR enhances irrigation facilities by constructing dams of three types (groundwater recharge dams, storage and flood prevention embankments), implementing maintenance projects for aflaj, digging auxiliary wells, issuing water licences and monitoring water levels.

The ministry restored 102 aflaj in 2019 in a project aimed at preserving this cultural heritage, besides facilitating irrigation of crops.

This traditional irrigation system is believed to date back more than 2,000 years. Through it, water is channeled from underground sources, springs or surface runoff and distributed throughout towns and villages.

The types of falaj vary according to the geology and hydrology of their location. Currently, there are 4,112 aflaj in the sultanate.

In Oman, aflaj are classified into three types: Dawoodi, Gaily and Ainiya. Batinah has the highest number of aflaj (1,561) followed by Sharqiyah (846), Dakhliyah (750), Dhahirah (716) and Muscat (239).

Water licences 

MAFWR receives requests through municipalities in the governorates related to water for irrigation purposes and grants licences to benefit from the available water resources in an organised way. The ministry issued 5,173 water licences for a variety of uses, including drilling and maintaining wells in several governorates in 2019.

The ministry evaluates the water situation in various governorates based on several criteria. The hydrometric network currently consists of about 4,620 monitoring points. These include stations for measuring rain, wadis, floods, aflaj flow, springs and dams, in addition to monitoring the level and quality of groundwater. 

The ministry conducted 19,810 monitoring operations in the Water Resources Affairs Departments of the governorates in 2019.

Storage dams 

MAFWR also maintains a number of dams. Two groundwater recharge dams have been recently completed; the first in Wadi al Oyun in the wilayat of Mudhaibi, North Sharqi-yah, which has a storage capacity of 1mn m3. The second is in Wadi al Salif in the wilayat of Ibri, Dhahirah, with a storage capacity of 1mn m3 of water, bringing the total number of groundwater recharge dams to 49. 

The ministry also implements projects of storage dams for villages located in mountainous areas with the aim of reserving part of the rainwater for use in periods of drought and interruption of rain. 

The ministry recently completed four storage dams, one each in the wilayats of Mirbat and Rustaq, and two in Dhahirah governorate, bringing the total number of surface storage dams to 114 in the sultanate. 

MAFWR continues to study government and private projects to benefit from the underground water reserve and to prepare hydrological studies for exploratory drilling and pumping projects for underground reservoirs that can be used in agricultural and industrial projects and local water supplies.

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