SEATTLE — Bahrain has a startling water dependency ratio of 96.6, which means it receives almost all of its water from outside the country. Further, the water quality in Bahrain has been affected due to salinization.
Bahrain, like most Arab regions, faces water scarcity due to low rainfall. Most of its natural springs have been lost due to excessive pumping and decreasing groundwater levels. The prolonged exploitation has led to a severe deterioration in the water quality in Bahrain because of seawater intrusion and saltwater up flow. This has resulted in the loss of all original groundwater reservoirs by salinization.
As groundwater used for irrigation has turned saline, production losses and desertification has caused the abandonment of traditional agricultural lands. The ecosystem itself is under threat as wetlands and biodiversity are depleting.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations examined the water quality in Bahrain to find the toxicity level of the groundwater of the semi-arid tract. The fluoride concentration varied from 0.50 to 1.46 mg/liter and 38 percent of the water had concentrations of fluoride that are considered harmful for drinking.
The Ministry of Electricity and Water is responsible for maintaining cost effective and safe water quality in Bahrain. The authorities are trying to balance between the available water resources and the growing demand for water for domestic supplies, industry and agricultural sector. Emphasis is also on moving from high water-consuming to lower water-consuming crops.
In spite of being one of the world’s most water-stressed nations, Bahrain has a very high rate of water consumption. This only adds to the woe of water quality in Bahrain. One way of dealing with the shortages is increasing the desalination capacity to meet the needs of its people. However, concentrating on the supply-side of water management will not be sustainable if there is no investment in demand-side management.
According to the World Research Institute, Bahrain tops the list of the 167 countries studied to become the most water-stressed country by 2040.
In the United Nations Development Programme report “Water Governance in the Arab Region: managing scarcity and securing the future” stress the need for strong action to mitigate water scarcity and to ensure water quality in Bahrain. Its main recommendations are:
- Policies and strategies should be made in consultation with stakeholders including government officials, politicians, water user associations, local communities and the private sector.
- Avoid politicization of resource competition.
- Developing distributed governing systems with local context at the center.
- Link water economy and policies with other economic sectors.
- Cooperating management of shared and transboundary water resources between all riparian countries.
Thus, the future of water quality and availability in Bahrain depends on a cohesive response created by multiple stakeholders.
– Tripti Sinha