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Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture
The main ministries and institutions responsible for water development, planning and management are:
- the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture (MMAA) represented by the General Directorate of Research and Agricultural Development, responsible for the management of groundwater use in agriculture; it comprises the following water-related departments:
- Department of Agricultural and Water Research (DAWR) which consists of five sections and two laboratories: Water Research Section, Soil Research Section, Agricultural Research Section, Agricultural Economics and Statistics Section, Agricultural Extension Section, Central Agricultural Laboratory and Plant Tissue Culture Laboratory;
- Agricultural Development Department (ADD);
- The Department of Public Gardens and Landscaping which manages landscape irrigation with treated sewage effluent;
- Agricultural Information Centre (AIC), responsible for the digital mapping and processing of groundwater, soils and as-built survey of farm boundaries;
- Drainage Affairs of Public Work Authority, which is responsible for the collection of wastewater and its treatment and distribution to the farms and the Doha landscape;
- Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (KAHRAMAA), responsible for providing desalinated water for drinking and industrial use;
- Qatar Electricity and Water Company (QEWC), responsible for the desalination of water and selling it to the General Electricity and Water Corporation;
- Supreme Council for Environment and Natural Reserves (SCENR), responsible for the protection of water resources;
- Planning Council, concerned with planning for water and other resources;
- The Central Laboratory, Ministry of Public Health, which is responsible for analyses of chemical and biological contaminants in drinking water and treated sewage effluent.
The Permanent Water Resources Committee (PWRC) was established in April 2004 under a decree by H.H. the Amir of the State of Qatar and via Decision No. 7/2004 of the Council of Ministers. Its objectives include contributing to securing ample water resources in quality and quantity for various uses for the benefit of society, the health of the environment, the integration of management, the development and preservation of water resources, coordination between the country’s authorities concerned with water resources and the reinforcement of public awareness of the importance and value of water.
Qatar has carried out a number of programmes and studies, issued water laws, and established committees for the consolidation of integrated water resources management, the most important of which are the following:
- Increasing natural recharge: The drilling of wells (with a special design including a perforated casing and graded gravels) in depressions to depths that reach the water bearing formations will accelerate the natural recharge of floodwater. The project started in 1986 and 341 recharge wells have been drilled since then (DAWR, Groundwater Unit, 2006). Continuation of this project will make rapid recharge possible from the occasional storm runoff that accumulates in depressions before its loss through evaporation. Experiments reveal that drilling wells in depressions could accelerate the recharge of floodwater by up to 30 percent.
- Development of water monitoring and irrigation scheduling: The water monitoring development programme has been promoted through a telemetry system at 3 automatic agrometeorological stations, 25 hydrometeorological stations and 48 hydrogeological stations. These automatic stations provide reliable data for irrigation scheduling and designing irrigation systems.
- Artificial recharge of groundwater: The Rus and upper Umm er Radhuma aquifers in northern Qatar have been heavily exploited for agricultural purposes. The total abstraction is far in excess of the average natural recharge. To solve this problem, a study concerning the artificial recharge of freshwater in the aquifer system was conducted in the period from 1992 to 1994. The objective of the study was to determine the feasibility of a large-scale artificial recharge project to augment the depleting northern groundwater aquifer and improve the water quality. The study indicates that the artificial recharge freshwater recovery efficiency, called ‘the user specific recovery efficiency’ (water salinity range 1 000–3 600 mg/l) could reach 100 percent in Rus and transition Rus/Umm er Radhuma.
- Development of deep aquifers: A recent study indicates that the development of the aquifer is constrained by several factors. These factors include depth of occurrence (450-650 m), low well production levels of up to 15 l/s at a drawdown of more than 100 m and salinity within the range of 4 000 to 6 000 mg/l.
- Increasing treatment and reuse of wastewater: The Drainage Affairs increased the volume of treated sewage effluent (TSE) through the connection of more residential areas to the public sewer and extension to Doha South and Doha West Treatment Plants. The amount of TSE increased from 46 million m3 in 2004 to 58 million m3 in 2006 and the amount reused in forage production and irrigation of landscape increased from 39 million m3 to 44 million m3 during the same period.
- Irrigation research and studies: Irrigation research and studies over the last ten years have included crop water requirements of the major crops in Qatar, irrigation with saline water, optimizing the use of TSE for forage production, the economics of protected agriculture when using desalinated water, optimum use of water resources in agriculture and modernizing irrigation in the Qatari farms.
The Agricultural Development Department (ADD) supports crop production by subsidizing seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides and services such as land cultivation and levelling. The magnitude of subsidies ranges from 25 to 75 percent of the cost depending on the productivity of the farm, the application of modern techniques and water use efficiency.
Policies and legislation
Based on the recommendations of the Department of Agriculture and Water Research (DAWR), an Ameri Decree (No.1 of 1988) was issued governing the drilling of wells and use of groundwater. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture (MMAA) formed the “Permanent Committee for farms, wells and organizing farmers’ affairs” which is responsible, in addition to other duties, for implementing the groundwater laws. Unfortunately, the only articles which have been implemented are those connected with granting permits for drilling, altering and modifying wells. What is required now is to put into action the articles concerning water use, protection and conservation.
It is thought that public awareness could be one of the most effective measures for mitigating water-related hazards and combating desertification. Proper education and training programmes could result in considerable water saving and consequently lead to cancelling some of the expensive water enhancement projects or at least postpone their implementation. Qatar has launched several public awareness, training and education programmes on conserving water resources and combating desertification. The programmes have been carried out by the DAWR, the SCENR (Supreme Council for Environment and Natural Reserves) and the Qatar Electricity and Water Company). The ‘Environmental-Friends Centre’, an NGO, has also participated in increasing public awareness especially among students and young people. The salient features of these programmes include the following:
- Organizing field days and exhibitions;
- Conducting specialized lectures, seminars, conferences, symposiums and workshops;
- Issuing technical bulletins, folders and posters;
- Displaying films, presenting TV and radio programmes and publishing articles in newspapers;
- Running campaigns;
- Arranging competitions among school children;
- Celebrating World Water Day (22 March), Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Water Week (22-28 March), Arab Environmental Day (14 October), Qatari Environmental Day (26 February) and Gulf Environmental Day (24 April).