GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
Al Jabri
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Use of renewable energy for desalination in urban agriculture in the GCC countries: Possibilities and Challenges
Paper Proposal Text :
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries face many environmental challenges that have direct impact on natural resources and, as a consequence, on the overall lifestyle. The main two pillars that such challenges revolve around are the energy resources and availability of water. Unwise use of these two resources place a tremendous pressure on their reservoirs and development plans. There is a tendency for the GCC countries to sustain the agricultural sectors despite the huge investments in energy and water requirements and relatively little contribution towards their GDPs. Moreover, over use of water in the coastal cities of the GCC countries resulted in the deterioration of quality of groundwater and increase of soil salinity. This has resulted in reduction of agricultural lands, reduction of productivity per unit area, and reduction of returns at the community level. Moreover, it narrowed down the choice of crops to be grown and, hence, further reduced the net profit of farmers. This situation posed another stress on the GCC countries in terms of food importation and food security. The preceding highlights the need of wise use of energy and water to maximize the net returns of agriculture at the local level of the community. This requires finding innovative approaches to produce water of acceptable quality to meet irrigation demands for fruits and vegetables within acceptable range of energy requirements; i.e., such approaches should be economically sound and environmentally sustainable. Use of desalination technology to provide good quality irrigation water is considered an expensive option to sustain agriculture in the GCC countries and other parts of the world. However, recent advancement in the technology could make it an attractive option for agriculture. Some scientists stated that desalination technology is probably the only feasible alternative source for irrigation of water in the arid environments. Several countries, e.g. Spain, Australia, UAE, and Chile; are using the desalination technology for producing irrigation water for agriculture. Disposal of reject water, i.e., brine, is the major environmental constraint for using this technology for producing irrigation water. Another constraint is the high costs associated with the desalination technology. We are proposing adoption of solar-operated desalination units to produce irrigation water, especially in greenhouses at the farm level. The combination of desalination and solar energy would probably be the only feasible option to sustain the agriculture and push towards food security in the harsh environment of the GCC countries. To expedite this proposal, we conducted a survey of farms in the Sultanate of Oman that use desalination units to produce irrigation water. Sixty farms were visited so far and soil and water samples were taken after completing the survey. The survey questions investigate socio-economic aspects of adaptation of desalination technology for agriculture. We are going to present a full technical analysis on the use of this option towards efficient use of energy for food production.