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More supply

The Sultanate’s agency for providing potable drinking water has been on a welcome expansion drive. It is indeed gratifying to see that Public Authority for Electricity and Water (PAEW) has been successful in keeping up with the demand cycle of a growing population. The demand that has been steadily rising is now pegged at 1 million cubic metres per day and annually growth at 6 per cent. This is in step with the rise in population. The continuing economic recovery is expected to further raise the requirement of potable water round the year. The steady demand rise for piped water is because of both growth in population of the nationals and increase in economic migration as more expatriates choose to work in the Sultanate because of the exceptional quality of life that it offers. This is in stark contrast to many other cities of the region that fail to offer the same quality of life as the Sultanate does. It is true that economic recovery, occasioned by the government’s far-reaching programmes to drive growth through diversification, always brings with it an influx of migrant labour as the nation would need expertise in more areas than hitherto required. Conventional wisdom is that migrant labour prefer to take their families to places that offer better quality of life. This is especially true for families that are enamoured by traditional Omani values and the safety and tranquility that the nation offers. PAEW has always kept the growing needs of the society in mind and planned ahead for capacity growth. PAEW Chairman HE Mohammed Abdullah Al Mahrouqi told Oman Tribune that the authority expects to supply water to 600,000 customers by 2020. This would be a steep rise in three years from the current 473,000. PAEW is responsible for supplying clean drinking water to the whole of the Sultanate expect Dhofar Governorate and Sohar city.

Such a frenetic pace of expansion would require that the transmission and distribution network will have to be strengthened vastly more than it is at present. That means PAEW has its task cut out to revamp the entire network, including virtually relaying the whole network in some areas where the pipelines have suffered more attrition than expected because of the elements. In some other areas, the authority will have to strengthen the supply network by laying additional pipelines. It is natural that as cities grow people keep moving about to wherever their work takes them. That means PAEW will have to build more capacity in areas that formerly did not have that much consumption. Al Mahrouqi says that the new Quriyat-Muscat pipeline will bring more water to the city once the pumping station is complete. PAEW must be appreciated for looming at private sector participation in line with the government policy to make the water supply segment more efficient. It is true that private sector players can excel in distribution and retail segments. Privatisation, as most economies of the world have proven, leads to higher efficiencies and better resource utilisation of resources. It is noteworthy that the government is looking at consolidating the multiple agencies involved in water distribution and streamlining the tasks they are entrusted with.