Amidst growing concerns about water security, the Barka desalination plant, due for completion in 2018, will play a pivotal role in quenching the thirst of the nation.

THE Barka seawater desalination plant, once it begins commercial operations in April 2018, will become the biggest water treatment facility in Oman. With a capacity of 281,000cbm per day, Barka will add 62 million gallons of potable water daily to Oman's existing supply, a not insubstantial increase of 20%. An independent water project (IWP), the plant is a joint venture between Barka Desalination Company and the Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP), a state-owned utility.

There are several such plants in Oman, some fully operational, others still in the construction phase. Work is ongoing at the facilities in Sohar, Al-Ghubrah, and Qurayyat, on the coast, but none compare with this latest project. For instance, the Barka II facility, built by SUEZ in 2009, is less than half the size of the latest Barka Desalination Plant. Furthermore, the Qurayyat facility, estimated to open YE2017, will provide the Sultanate with an extra 200,000cbm of clean water per day, nearly one-third less than the newest Barka Plant.
In the context of increasing concerns about water security in Oman, the plant is the latest in a series of public-private joint ventures in the utility sector and will be instrumental in adding precious drops to waning water resources. Oman currently falls below the world's water poverty line, weighing in at 160 out of 169 of the world's driest countries. Considering the country's rapidly growing population, it is not surprising, therefore, that water demand in Oman well exceeds supply. Predictions previously showed an annual increase in need for water of 3-5% nationwide. Now, the latest estimate reported by the Oman Daily Observer puts the figure at an increase of 15% annually. Demand in the north alone is due to increase by 6% by 2020.
Desalination seems like the obvious solution to this problem, since, thanks to its favorable position on the gulf, Oman has no shortage of untreated water at its fingertips. The Barka desalination plant will employ the latest water purification technologies, such as reverse osmosis, a process that uses pressure to push water through a semi-permeable membrane, and removes 99% of salts.
As the biggest IWP in the Sultanate's history, the Barka Desalination Plant will make serious ripples. With Oman's water economy being on the cusp of considerable growth, developers will be looking at Barka with a view to replicating the success of the model, and even lifting its title as they compete to build an even bigger and better plant to serve the needs of the region.