An extensive search for water is being carried out in the arid interior of the Sultanate of Oman, under a programme to expand the country's agricultural industry.
GV Drilling Site Camp 23, armed Guard in foreground (2 shots)
LV Drilling rig on truck
SV Worker turns on tap and water gushes out.
SV Men offload water pipes from truck
SV Pipes on ground
SV Men pick up pipes and carry to drill site
SV PAN Men lay pipeline
GV PAN Village of El-Hajir PAN TO mountains
SV Water down irrigation channel down mountainside (4 shots)
SV irrigation water into tank
GV Palm trees at foot of mountain
Initials AE/20.18 AE/21.06
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Background: An extensive search for water is being carried out in the arid interior of the Sultanate of Oman, under a programme to expand the country's agricultural industry.
The search is being made by European geophysical companies, under contract to the government of Sultan Qaboos since September 1972. Since then, dozens of new underground wells have been tapped.
The agricultural potential of Oman is considerable because of the richness of the soil. But the rains are unpredictable. They fall in winter and early spring and yield no more than five inches in a good year.
The only other sources of water are the underground wells, which are fed by the slightly heavier rains falling on the Al Akhdar mountain range, lying about 120 miles (192 kilometres) southwest of Muscat, the capital. The Jabel Akhdar plateau, part of the range, is of porous limestone and acts as a reservoir holding vast quantities of water. Some of the water emerges as springs at the northern end of the plateau, while the rest seeps into underground wells beneath the arid northern coastal plains.
Today, fewer than 100,000 acres (40,400 hectares) of Oman are under cultivation. But the Omani government estimates this could be increased to as much as 250,000 acres (101,000 hectares) once irrigation is properly organised.
At present, most farms are fed with water by an ancient Persian irrigation system. Dating back 2,000 years, the "falaj" system consists of artificial underground channels which lead water by gentle gradients to areas of cultivation. Tunnels are sunk to provide access to the water, which is protected from the sun. But the underground channels are costly and difficult to build and maintain.
Another Persian system brings water down the slopes of the Al Akhdar range. The water is channelled in an aqueduct which follows the slope of the mountain. The water flows into an oasis and from there into irrigation channels.
The first stage of the Omani government's hydrological survey will continue until early 1976. By then the Government hopes to establish a special authority to administer the distribution of water to farms.
SYNOPSIS: But there are heavier falls over the Jebel Akhdar Plateau about one-hundred-and-twenty miles southwest of the capital, Muscat. The plateau is of limestone and acts as a reservoir holding vast amounts of water. Some of it emerges as springs at the base of the plateau, while the rest seeps into the underground wells. This can easily be brought to the surface with pumps.
The search for water has been concentrated at the base of the plateau. The new wells will become part of a large irrigation scheme later on.
Most farms at present are fed by an ancient Persian irrigation system of man-made underground channels. One part of the system, which is two thousand years old, is an aqueduct running down the side of the Al Akhdar range. The aqueduct follows the contours of the mountain, and carries the water to the dry plains below.
The first stage of the search for underground water will continue for another two years. By then, the Omani government hopes to have set up an irrigation authority.