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Prospects for agricultural water management
A National Water Resources Master Plan was prepared in 2000 to establish a strategy and plan for the period 2001-2020 for the sustainable development, management and conservation of water resources in the Sultanate of Oman. The Plan was based on general and resource studies, economic studies and some limited social studies as well as institutional and implementation support studies. The technical basis for the Plan comprises the assessments of water availability, development potential and demand for water.
In general terms, it was concluded that there is a requirement for an additional supply and/or adjustment of water use to yield overall about 330 million m3/year in order to meet future additional priority demands and restore the existing deficit during the Master Plan period. In view of the current high levels of water consumption by farmers using wells, demand management and water quality conservation measures were investigated in order to determine how consumption could be reduced to sustainable levels and the implications of such measures were evaluated. Some of these measures would need the support of a legislative, regulatory or institutional nature delivered at a national or regional level (Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources, 2005).
With the aim of increasing irrigation efficiency, the government committed itself to encouraging the introduction of localized irrigation systems. The introduction of these systems is considered to be one of the most important projects implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) to conserve water and achieve agricultural development. The MAF has set the standard specifications and the technical terms for the implementation of modern irrigation systems, as well as for the calculation of crop water requirement for different areas. According to the agricultural census 2004-2005, 19 percent of the harvested area was under modern irrigation: 52 percent of harvested vegetables area was under modern irrigation, 42 percent of fodder but only 9 percent of field crops and 6 percent of dates and other fruits.