Bahrain - Analyse the risk

Figures on Bahrain:

  • 778 km2 (2015)
  • 1,5 million inhabitants (2018)
  • Arid climate
  • Average rainfall 68mm

1. Future Risks - A look towards 2050

Water availability 

  • Potentially lower rainfall could decrease future groundwater recharge rates of the Damman aquifer, leaving Bahrain dependent only on artificial sources.
  • The impact on water supply will most likely be on the agricultural sector, which has the highest dependency on groundwater.
  • Agricultural water demand will depend mostly on TSE re-use
  • No large impacts of future climate scenarios for temperature on the water supply or demand
  • The most important water source in the future will be desalinated water. All major plants are located in the coastal area, which means that with sea level rise, valuable critical infrastruture will be highly exposed.


  • Desertification resulting from the degradation of arable land
  • Droughts and dust storms
  • Coastal degradation resulting from oil spills and lack of freshwater resources

Transitional risks

  • Bahrain has made great efforts to diversify its economy, but the oil and gas sector still plays a very important role with almost 19% of its GDP.
  • Under the current and future dependency of Bahrain to non-conventional water sources, water security depends greatly on the government’s financial stability and economic capacity to be able to support the additional desalination investments, treated waste water collection and re-use and the current subsidy system which is likely to remain in the near future.

Value of water

  • Water is highly undervalued in Bahrain. Addressing water tariffs and aligning prices to the value of water will help to reduce the high per capita water consumption rates and generate finances for the maintenance and expansion of supply.
  • There is a subsidy system in place which makes the financial sustainability of non conventional water production almostunsustainable.
  • Future investments in non conventional water sources to meet the future demands are needed. The financial investment required for it, however, will place a significant strain on the government’s finances. Financial stability of Bahrain is subject to oil prices/demand changes.
  • Meeting long-term demand however, will require significant economic reforms, focused on reducing subsidies and the diversification of the economy, trade partners for food products and water sources. Given the current political climate it is unlikely the necessary reforms will be implemented in the near future, creating long-term risks to the country’s food and water security (

To assess the water scarcity-related risks for Bahrain, we followed a step-wise analysis using the best available data (hydrological, water use, climate scenarios, national plans and strategies, etc) for the country.

Information sources for the general future risk analysis:

Al-Jeneid, S., Bahnassy, M., Nasr, S., & El Raey, M. (2008). Vulnerability assessment and adaptation to the impacts of sea level rise on the Kingdom of Bahrain. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 13(1), 87–104.

Bahrain in Figures 2016 (

Elasha, Balgis Osman. "Mapping of climate change threats and human development impacts in the Arab region." UNDP Arab Development Report–Research Paper Series, UNDP Regiona Bureau for the Arab States (2010).

Waleed Al-Zubari, 2014. The Costs of Municipal  Water Supply in Bahrain. 

2. Water Availability (historical)

The water availability for all water users in the country.

This graph shows Bahrain's water availability for the period 1982-2015.

Bahrain’s water availability is characterized by the early introduction of artificial water sources already in the 1980s. Groundwater is the main source of water for Bahrain, however, through the last decades the production of water from desalination and treated waste water increased and nowadays  itrepresents an important part in the total water availability. As it can be seen in the graph, precipitation or surface water are neglectable as water sources.

Description of water sources in graph

  • Desalination: Distillate derived from multistage flash (MSF) seawater desalination plants
  • Groundwater for water production: Groundwater for blending with desalinated product water (mainly from wells in the west and north of Bahrain and in Muharraq).
  • Treated waste water: Treated sewage effluent (TSE) for irrigation purposes (currently)
  • Total groundwater withdrawal: Groundwater from the Dammam aquifer (mainly). Save yield 110 Mm3/year. Currently is much higher.

3. Water demand per sector (historical)

Volume of water demand for the different sectors

Bahrain’s water demand increased largely over the last few decades. 

Steady increase can be observed for domestic water demand due to increasing population. But also agriculture water demand increased since the 1980s, industrial water demand mostly in the last 10 years.

* Note that this reports only refers to the industrial demand reported by the EWA and it may underestimate the total industrial demand as it does not consider the private production (no information available).

4. Water demand per source per sector (current and future)

Different water users use water from different sources

The water demand in the agricultural sector is covered mostly by groundwater and to some extent by reused waste water.

For domestic and industrial sector the water demand is covered by a mix of groundwater and desalinated water.

Towards the future the water demand will increase even further.

Given the historic development since the 80’s, water availability from the different sources will very likely also keep changing to a more artificial water production.

Groundwater abstraction will be decreasing further until ~2025, where it will be replaced by other water sources like desalination (powered by fossil fuel or CSP (concentrated solar power)) as well as wastewater reuse.

Source graph: Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Kuwait and Bahrain (2019), Water-Enegy-Food Nexus in Kuwait