Water on life support
Slim Zekri
Dept. Natural Resource Economics, CAMS, SQU
World Water Day 18 March 2015
Sultan Qaboos University
Sustainability framework
 Weak sustainability: A sustainable state is one in which resources
are managed so as to maintain production opportunities for the
sufficient substitutability exists between non-renewable resources
the recourse is extracted efficiently over time, not wastefully
rent derived from non-renewable extraction should be saved and
accumulated entirely in Human Made Capital
Knowledge appears to be a good substitute of non-renewable resources
 Strong sustainability: A sustainable state is one in which resources
are managed so as to maintain a sustainable yield of resource
Water in Oman before the event of
Who financed the water and water infrastructure?
How was the water used?
Was it recycled?
Did the low income families received the same amount of water as
the wealthy families?
 Did they pay the same price?
Source: PAEW, 2013
Current Status of Urban Water in Oman
 +90% of the urban water is desalinated
 Total dependence on non-renewable energy
 No substitute so far
 High subsidies to the water sector
 Muscat Fresh water + WWT services in 2012
 $204 million PER YEAR
 + $ 1166 subsidy per connection
 SQU: 14 Water Researchers
 Less than $½ million budget/year (part of this is from international agencies)
 0.24% of the annual subsidy to water
 0.24% investment on Knowledge Vs 99.76% on consumption
 $204 million from oil rent are misallocated
Not including TTWW subsidy
$363 million
Source: PAEW, 2013
Subsidies and distortions
 Is it appropriate to have part of your income paid in water rather than
 What if your monthly salary includes 20 m3 of free water per month?
 Would not you like to have 41.5 Rials instead of the 20 m3 of free water ?
 How much subsidy to the low income vs wealthy?
 Why do you receive 20 m3 of free water per month while the low income
receive only 5 m3 of free water?
 Is it FAIR?
 Subsidies discourage innovation and cost cutting
 Wastewater cost is not decreasing in Oman
 Adoption of better practices
 Investment in R&D is a must at regional scale
 Collaboration with the Private Sector to cut down costs
 What about desalination cost? Is it decreasing?
 At international level the cost of seawater desalination reached a low of $ ½
per m3
 How much is it paid in Oman?
Targeting Subsidy NOT remove subsidy
 Industrial/commercial/Governmental users should pay the full
cost of water
 Income higher than XX Rials will have to pay the full cost of
 What about the low income? What options?
 How we identify the low income households
 How can they access to water without causing a burden on their
modest income?
 Why water\wastewater can be subsidized to the low income?
Pricing According to Efficiency
 Should efficient water users pay the same price as inefficient
 Unfair
 Does not encourage water saving
 A tiered pricing based on economic status and the number of
residents in each household
 Monthly individualized household allocation
 Inefficient water users will be charged a price higher than the
full cost
 Ensuring the water utility budget equilibrium
 Cross subsidy
 Fund to implement water saving programs
Demand, Desalination & GW: 3 R’s
Reduce demand
 Proper Pricing
Water saving Technology
2. Re-use at home before treatment
 Grey water to flush toilets
 Need to re-engineer the home’s pipes water system
 Reconsider totally the flush toilet in light of composting toilet system
innovations: Long term option
 “A properly maintained composting system yields only an odorless, stabilized product,
rich in nutrients and organic matter.” (Shuster, 2012)
 Grey water to garden irrigation
 fresh water ↘ wastewater treatment cost ↘
 Can be easily implemented without
energy uses↘
3. Recycle: Integrated GW-treated wastewater management in
urban and peri-urban areas
 Deliver the TTWW to farmers
 Buy the fresh water from farmers to the cities
Improve aquifer recharge
 Roof water harvesting and recharge through abandoned existing
sceptic tanks after proper disinfection
 Counter the negative effect of urbanization vs recharge
 Improves groundwater capacity to respond during emergency
 Reduces floods
 Reduces urban run-off to the treatment plants
 Dinar, A; Ash, T. 2015. Water Budget Rate Structure: Experiences
from Several Urban Utilities in Southern California.
 Shuster, W. D. 2012. On the Matter of Sustainable Water
Management. Chapter 6.
 Zekri, S; Al Harthi, S; Kotagama, H; Bose, S. 2015. Farmer’s
Willingness to Pay for Tertiary Treated Wastewater for irrigation.
Working paper. Dept. NRE
 Zekri, S; Al Harthi, R; Boughanmi, H; Kotagama, H. 2015. Residential
Water Demand Estimation for Muscat. Working paper. Dept. NRE

Water on life support