Can smart irrigation technologies reverse saltwater intrusion in an arid area coastal aquifer?

Edda Kalbus1, Slim Zekri2
1 Applied Geosciences, German University of Technology in Oman
2 Natural Resource Economics, Sultan Qaboos University

O 10.3 in Hydrogeologie arider Gebiete

30.05.2014, 18:00-18:20, H17, NW II

Excessive pumping of groundwater and the resulting depletion or deterioration of groundwater resources is a major concern in arid areas. The Batinah coastal plain in Northern Oman is particularly affected because extensive agricultural areas in this region require year-round irrigation due to low precipitation rates. The water demand is primarily met by groundwater which is pumped from shallow alluvial aquifers. Since the 1970’s, when pumping started, the groundwater levels have been decreasing continuously and today’s levels are several meters below sea level near the coastline. Consequently, seawater intrusion caused a deterioration of groundwater quality and numerous farms have been abandoned due to the high salinity of the groundwater used for irrigation.  Between 2006 and 2010, the Batinah region lost more than 5,000 hectares of farmland to saltwater intrusion. Less than fifty percent of the farms in the region use sprinkler and drip irrigation technologies. Upgrading all farms to more modern equipment may significantly reduce the water demand which may lead to recovering groundwater levels and possibly to reclamation of farmland previously lost to saltwater intrusion. This study examines the interaction between the adoption of smart irrigation technologies and saltwater intrusion in the coastal aquifer of the Batinah.  Forty farms have been selected based on size, type of soil, type of crop, and salinity of irrigation water, and these farms have been equipped with smart energy-water meters to measure daily groundwater pumping. Half of the selected farms are being additionally equipped with low-cost automated smart irrigation and fertilization (fertigation) systems. Water use, yield, and profitability of these farms will be compared to the no-action strategy. A numerical groundwater flow and transport model is used to simulate the effect of reduced pumping rates on seawater intrusion. The results will help encouraging farmers’ adoption of the monitoring system and modernize farms for sustainable agriculture. Further groundwater management options, such as the construction of groundwater recharge dams and individual quota can be included in the study in order to find a feasible strategy to combat seawater intrusion in the Batinah and protect both the water resources and the farmers’ welfare.

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Letzte Änderung 20.10.2013