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Bahrain's battle with Water Shortage- The Untold Story

Bahrain's Freshwater Springs:

The issue of water shortages in Bahrain is something that is rarely known, let alone discussed. Yes, even I had not been unaware of this until a colleague (on Twitter) informed me of it (I thank that Tweeter). Indeed,  the once prestigious, and pride of Bahrain, the spring waters and wells are drying up, the aquifers and a part of Bahrain’s namesake is almost vanishing into the abyss. In this essay, we shall examine and dissect this mysterious topic, about the shortages of water in Bahrain
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Ask anyone on the streets of Bahrain today about any water crisis in the world, they would , most likely, point out to somewhere in Africa or other Less Economically Developed Areas (LEDA). Most ,if not would be surprised that Bahrain had been at this point many times before, yes , Bahrain has experienced water shortages. Lets focus on the freshwater springs, most of Bahrain’s springs originate from the Dammam aquifer (that’s in Eastern Saudi Arabia).

Now evidently, the World Resources institute, had said that “actual renewable water resources per capital had plunged to 154.5 cubic meters”. This problem isn’t limited to just Bahrain, as UNESCO had earlier predicted that up to 13 Arabian countries may experience a critical water shortage in the near future.

Bahrain's Reaction:
Bahrain had formed a ‘Water Resources Council’, which aims to control the water resources left in the Kingdom. In fact, it even unveiled a master plan to constantly improve and protect the water supply over the next few years or so. A major end-product of the funding, given by the Minister of Electricity and Water Authority, are the desalination plants.

Desalination plants remain the major source of water in Bahrain, estimated to produce around 143 million gallons of water per day (Perhaps that’s why not much water is left). However, this project is not immune from environmentalists’ concerns. 
A desalination plant in Bahrain
Some warn that Chlorine (which plays a disinfectant role in the desalination plant) may spew into the nearby sea and possibly kill or damage the ecosystems or living organisms present. Such accidents may prove quite costly considering many fishermen rely on these ecosystems for their fish. Others raise the concern of chlorine from the fish being transmitted (via their flesh) to humans and could potentially cause illnesses.


An article sums up a unique case of one of the Sewage Treatment plants available in Bahrain, albeit the most notable one:

In 1977, the government of Bahrain started treating sewage water to reduce water consumption. The project has been gradually developing, especially after the establishment of the Tubli Water Treatment Station. The project initially faced rejection with the formation of Parliament in 2002 when a majority of conservative lawmakers doubted the purity of the water. The government assured MPs that the water supply of the plant was strictly for domestic gardens and playgrounds. For lack of better options and knowing how badly Bahrain needed the plant, the MPs kept quiet for several years.
The plant became a public issue in 2006, when a health expert warned families about taking their children to gardens and playgrounds that are irrigated with the treated water. The Director of Public Health, Samir Abdullah Khalfan, then declared that the Tubli Station needed urgent maintenance to produced healthy water, as current conditions could cause fatal hepatitis A infection and food poisoning. In reports he drafted for the Public Health Ministry, he also called upon the public to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables, warning that treated water from the Kingdom’s only sewage water treatment station wasn’t 100 percent clean. Khalfan’s announcements were denounced immediately by the three ministries concerned with the station which asserted that there was no scientific evidence linking treated water with hepatitis A. Their collective statement claims that hepatitis cases had actually declined in the last five years, especially among young children. After months of debate, the station was temporary closed to carry out further tests and was reopened later in the same year.

To add to the grim situation, the British risk analysis firm Maplecroft (conveniently) released a report that calculates the Water Stress Index (that is, which country is probable of having a water shortage). And guess what ? Bahrain was ranked #1 on that list (in the Middle East region) with having the least available water per capita (as of 25th of May , 2011) The report is viewable here.

Maplecroft’s research highlights current and future water availability as one of the foremost global challenges. The company states that the dual drivers of climate change and population growth will combine to squeeze water resources and affect the food security of governments across the world, regardless of how water secure they may be today.
Incidentally, the Discovery Channel had aired a documentary about water shortages in Bahrain  (viewable here )

So, now we’ve found out Bahrain’s vulnerability towards having a water shortage, and hence (not meaning to sound like the Ministry of Electricity and Water but) we have to stop wasting all the water we have. Turn off that tap when you’re brushing your teeth, turn off the water when not in use. Bahrain’s lifeline , as far as water is concerned, remains in the balance. 
Although, back in 2004, it was said that Bahrain wouldn't experience a water shortage until 2012 (spoke too soon ?)

And the likeliness of this happening you may ask ?
Probable, not impossible. Though some experts think (between 2012 to 2050) Bahrain will experience a shortage.

Comments

  1. Really enjoyed your blog and great to see someone else is writing about Bahrain- I write a variety of blogs about my life as an expat in bahrain ( environment, cooking, driving, places to go) and was going to do one on the scarcity of water here- do u mind if i quote you?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, Neil. Thank you for your interest in the blog and no, I don't mind you quoting us. Please do post a link to the post when it's ready

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