Sanitation in Kuwait
Kuwait, or the State of Kuwait, is a country between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. After obtaining its independence from Britain in 1961, Kuwait was invaded by Iraq in Aug. 1990. In Feb. 1991, a U.S.-led U.N. coalition liberated Kuwait in four days. After their liberation from Iraq, Kuwait’s many tribal groups staged protests demanding their political rights. The oppositionists, mainly composed of Sunni Islamists, tribal populists and liberals, won nearly half of the seats in the national assembly in the 2016 election. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Kuwait.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Kuwait

  1. There are no permanent rivers or lakes in Kuwait. While there aren’t any permanent water sources in Kuwait, there are Wadis, also known as desert basins. These basins fill with water during winter rains, which occur from Dec. to March. However the low amount of rainfall, which is about 121mm per year, and the high evaporation rate of water in Kuwait’s climate make rainfall an unreliable source of water.
  2. In 2015, Kuwait was on the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) list of countries with the highest water risk by 2040. Countries such as Bahrain, Palestine, Qatar, UAE, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Lebanon were on the same list. The WRI pointed to the Middle-East’s already limited water supply and climate change as criteria for their country rankings.
  3. In Kuwait, 99 percent of people have access to improved drinking water. Kuwait also has a well-developed water infrastructure. However, the country’s rapidly growing population since 2000 is putting a toll on Kuwait’s water supply. Even as early as 1946, Kuwait was importing 80,000 gallons of fresh water per day.
  4. Kuwait’s over-reliance on groundwater led to its reliance on desalinization for drinking water. Even during the early 20th century, the shallow wells that collected rainwater were drying out. According to the 2019 U.N. report, these desalination plants produce around 93 percent of Kuwait’s drinking water.
  5. Desalination is expensive. While some might think that desalination plants are the answer to Kuwait’s water supply problem, the cost of operating desalination plants can’t be ignored. Per cubic meter, desalinated water can cost up to $1.04. Adding on to this the price of energy, which accounts for three-fourths of the cost, and transportation, it is easy to see how expensive desalination is.
  6. In 2017 and 2018, the WHO recognized the excellent water quality in Kuwait. This recognition is a testament to the Kuwait government’s commitment to water quality in its country. However, the Director of Water Resources Development Center emphasized the importance of landlords, who are responsible for the quality of water for their buildings, in keeping water storage tanks free of bacterial infection.
  7. The Water Resources Development Center (WRDC) uses real-time GIS (Geographic Information System) to monitor water quality and sanitation in Kuwait. While desalination plants produce clean water, multiple factors such as damaged water pipes or an aging water infrastructure can lead to water contamination. The GIS allows WRDC to collect and process water data from numerous sensors throughout Kuwait in real-time.
  8. The CIA estimated in 2015 that 100 percent of the Kuwait population has access to improved sanitation facilities. This reflects the Kuwait government’s commitment to public health and sanitation. In 2013, for example, Kuwait invested $5.28 billion in its water sector. Water treatment plants received the highest investment of $3.4 billion.
  9. Kuwait is expanding its sewage treatment facilities. In 2018, a German-Kuwait consortium closed a $1.6 billion contract to expand Kuwait’s Umm Al Hayman (UAH) sewage treatment plant. When the facility’s expansion finishes, experts estimate that the new plant will process 700,000 cubic meters of sewage per day, compared to the original capacity of 500,000 cubic meters.
  10. Kuwait is working on more efficient usage of water. In 2011, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) stated that Kuwait had the highest water consumption in the world. UNDP’s 2019 report indicates that efficient usage of water in Kuwait rose from zero percent in 2012 to 15.1 percent in 2016. MOEW (Ministry of Electricity and Water) achieved this by conducting community awareness-raising activities or building water tanks and wells to ensure long-term water conservation.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Kuwait highlight the success the nation has had in maintaining and providing sanitary water. However, Kuwait must now turn its attention toward securing stable sources of water. With the ever-looming threat of climate change, the UNDP recommends that Kuwait focus on sustainable development.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr