Regulatory framework for drinking water, wastewater discharge and reuse
The Sultanate of Oman is divided into five regions: Al Dakhiliyah, Al Batinah, Al Wusta, Ash Sharqiyah and Al Dhahirah. In addition, it comprises four governorates: Muscat, Musandam, Dhofar and Al Buraymi. Muscat is the capital of Oman. Muscat has the highest populated area and has witnessed important socio economic developments. Al Batinah Region accounts for more than 50% of agricultural area in the country which is the sector with the highest water use. In addition, the Muscat governorate and Al Batinah Region account for about 50% of the Omani population.
Drinking water quality regulations
The Omani Standard O.S. 8/2006 regulates drinking water quality requirements. It is an update of O.S. 8/1994 for unbottled drinking water based on the 2004 WHO guidelines for drinking water quality and it supercedes previous standards for drinking water O.S. 8/1984/1998. O.S. 8/2006 applies to all sources of unbottled drinking water (treated or untreated) such as via the network system, from wells, springs or even surface water (rainwater stored in dams and used later for drinking supply). O.S. 8/2006 indicates the maximum allowed values for chemical, inorganic and organoleptic constituents. In addition, it sets guidelines for 128 radionuclides. Also, it specifies standards for biological and microbiological characteristics. The standard considers 2 criteria for unbottled drinking water: quality level, which is the value that should be achieved; and the maximum limit, which is the maximum allowed value. The latter is mandatory and should be implemented.
Municipal and industrial wastewater quality regulations
MOECA issues laws to protect the environment from pollution produced by wastewater. Wastewater discharge standards are set within the framework given by Royal Decree No. 10/82 and Royal Decree No. 114/2001, which promotes the conservation of the environment and the prevention of pollution.
M.D. 145/93 was issued to ensure health and social welfare at the national level, thus protecting the public health along with the environment. According to M.D. 145/93, wastewater treatment standards are divided into two categories (A and B) depending on their reuse option concerning different types of irrigation as seen in the following figure. Both cases contemplate water reuse for aquifer recharge.
Water in industry: Oil and Gas
Oil and gas production is the main industry in Oman, contributing to about 40% of its GDP each year.
Future regulatory scenario and conclusions
Irrigation is mainly dependent on groundwater resources and Aflaj. On one hand, groundwater resources have been depleted due to overexploitation and sea water intrusion, and the government is prohibiting the excavation of new wells as a part of a conservation strategy. On the other hand, Aflaj are drying out in many parts of the northern region leaving the agricultural areas with low availability of water resources. This is a mere example of the water shortage situation facing the country, which is reflected in the urgent requests from farmers for water reuse. Wastewater treatment appears as an important alternative which can alleviate the situation by reusing water for irrigation purposes, especially under the new wastewater scheme that will increase the amount of treated wastewater to a high level in the coming years. Therefore, after the implementation of such scheme, the government will be obliged to start fully implementing the regulations concerning water reuse and start considering the options of using treated wastewater in agriculture and aquifer recharge in order to face water scarcity in the country. However, in order to achieve this, implementing and monitoring of existing wastewater discharge regulations into land, surface water, groundwater and the marine environment, will be on the priority list of the government in the near future. Some modifications to the existing regulations may take place to achieve the best possible outcome. Yet according to official and industry sources, while MOECA is playing the role of controller, it is not even able to achieve it. Some governmental bodies and private stakeholders are discussing changing MOECA’s role to that of a promoter of better strategies and support concerning regulations of wastewater discharge and reuse.
List of laws, standards and policies