Oman is one of the world’s most arid countries where water availability fully relies on groundwater resources and desalinization plants. The average annual rainfall depth has been estimated is around 60 mm, varying from less than 20 mm in the internal desert regions to over 300 mm in the mountain areas. This rainfall on mountain areas yields to occasional groundwater recharge.

Greenhouse with hydroponic system

Currently, two Spanish agricultural companies develop a 12 hectare hydroponic greenhouse project in Barka, Oman. The Barka project is the first such development in the region, and will have a production capacity of 3m tonnes. The goal is to use up to 60% less water than conventional farming technique in this region.

Specific expertise on greenhouses of the FutureWater team was required to review the technical design specifications of the greenhouses. The work highlighted the strong and weaker points of the technical document and suggested modifications and/or improvements. Besides, a brief synthesis of the climatic characteristics was given that are most relevant for the greenhouse design.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is considered the most water-scarce region of the world. Disputes over water lead to tension within communities, and unreliable water services are prompting people to migrate in search of better opportunities. Water investments absorb large amounts of public funds, which could often be used more efficiently elsewhere. As the region’s population continues to grow, per capita water availability is set to fall by 50 percent by 2050, and, if climate change affects weather and precipitation patterns as predicted, the MENA region may see more frequent and severe droughts and floods

Map of yearly average precipitation in the MENA region (mm).

The need for alternative and improved water management options is therefore urgently needed, but a clear overview on what the main focus should be is lacking. A broad range of options exists which can be grouped by different approaches such as reducing the demand, increasing the supply, transfer between different sectors, transfer within different sectors, increase storage etc. An important aspect for the MENA region includes desalination.

Map of aridity in the MENA region.

To explore different options the World Bank initiated an initiative to generate an improved understanding of water issues in the region and overview of available options under different scenarios of water supply and demand management with special focus on desalination, taking into account the energy nexus and environmental concerns. As part of this initiative, FutureWater will carry out an assessment of water stress in the MENA region, including associated marginal cost of water supply to meet the water supply need. Conducting consultation workshops and meetings will be organized with relevant parties in the region (governmental, universities, civil society groups).