Sultanate of Oman 1989/1990

Update 2009

In recent years efforts to explore the use of the fog-water resource in Oman continue, though not with any direct involvement of FogQuest. Some of this work uses problematical mesh material but we look forward to seeing results of the work published. In the southern part of Oman, this remains a tremendous water resource with huge potential benefits.

Background

The Sultanate of Oman lies at the eastern end of the Arabian Peninsula bordering the Arabian Sea. It has a long and fascinating history of involvement in the sea and land trading routes of the region and is the home to the frankincense plants that have provided incense for temples and churches for thousands of years. A major fog collection experiment was undertaken in the Sultanate of Oman in the summers of 1989 and 1990. It was based on the pilot project at El Tofo (Chungungo) in Chile and the scientific component was led by Pilar Cereceda and Robert Schemenauer from that project. Chilean students (Juanse Barros and Gonzalo Frigerio) made substantial contributions to both the field work and the reports through their work with COWIconsult. The project was funded in the initial year by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Oman through the Planning Committee for Development and Environment in the Southern Region (PCDESR). In the second year it was funded by PCDESR.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) was an implementing agency. In both years of the project, staff and consultants (Rowan MacTaggert and Robert Whitcombe) with PCDESR coordinated the field work, looked after community interactions and monitored the funding.

During the southwest monsoon, the mountains of Dhofar are covered in a thick deck of fog with frequent drizzle. The maximum duration of the monsoon is from mid-June to mid-September and it is often some weeks shorter. Data on the amount of water available were obtained both with SFCs and a number of larger fog collectors. In the upper elevations, from 900 to 1000 m, average collection rates of 30 L m-2 day-1 for the monsoon were obtained. This extremely high collection rate is due to both the thick fog and the high winds on the mountains. The fog water is only available for about two months of the year and this puts limits on the use of the water. The most effective use may be for irrigation of tree seedlings to reforest the hills. Once these trees are a meter or so tall they can be self-sufficient, provided drought tolerant native species are chosen. Despite the fact that the water is suitable for use as drinking water (Schemenauer and Cereceda, 1992), the use of the water for human consumption is limited in this region because of the requirement for long periods of storage between fog seasons.

In recent years there remains an interest in making use of the fog resource in Oman. Salim Alesh and Tariq Cheema at the Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat have worked on the subject. But today the actual water supplies for people in the Dhofar Mountains still come from deep boreholes. However, as more underground water is extracted on the mountains, less is available to the people living on the coastal plain around Salalah. This contributes to the underground intrusion of salt water on the plain. A promising solution is the planting and irrigation of huge tracts of new forest on the mountains to lead to increases in the water input to the upland aquifers. This would benefit both those living on the mountains and agricultural and urban needs in the coastal plain. The southern part of the Sultanate of Oman is a location where the early pioneering work on fog collection could be developed into a substantial water supply for the people.