Water of the Middle East and North Africa

Water Infrastructure in Kuwait

water towers kuwait Water infrastructure in Kuwait
Photo 1: Kuwait Water towers. (Source: Al Manlangit, Flickr)

Fresh and brackish water network

The water distribution system in Kuwait comprises two networks: one for fresh water and the other for brackish water. Each system has its own underground reservoirs, pumping stations and elevated towers. The brackish water is used for blending with desalinated water, irrigating agricultural landscapes and public parks and for domestic purposes, while fresh water is used only for domestic purposes.[1]

Fresh water produced from desalination plants or groundwater wells is pumped to underground reservoirs, then to distribution networks and elevated towers. Pumping to the distribution networks is monitored and supervised by the Water Control Centre in Shuwaikh.[2]

The number of connections to private, commercial and industrial buildings was about 185,151 for fresh water and 76,488 for brackish water in 2019. In areas where piped water is not yet available, people can obtain their water from water filling stations located across the country. The distribution rate of these stations is in the range of 10-12% of the general consumption.[3]

Desalination plants

There are eight desalination plants in Kuwait, located along the coast, with a total installed capacity of 3.11 MCM/d.[4] Map 1 and Table 1 show the name, location and installed capacity of these plants.

Water infrastrucutre in Kuwait
Map 1: Location of desalination plants and wastewater treatment plants in Kuwait. @Fanack water

Table 1: Installed capacity of desalination plants in Kuwait.

Name of plantTechnologyCommissioning year Installed capacity MCM/dNet production of desalinated water MCM/yr
Shuwaikh MSF and RO19820.2248.13
Shuaiba North MSF 20110.2138.04
Shuaiba SouthMSF 19710.1436.71
Doha EastMSF 19780.1956.04
Doha West MSF and RO19830.78129.91
Zour South MSF and RO19880.64101.79
Zour NorthMSF and RO20160.4930.97
Sabiya MED20060.46116.93
Total capacity3.11717.90

Kuwait uses mainly multi-stage flash (MSF) distillation of seawater to provide potable water. Most of this is produced with co-generation power desalting plants, in which oil or gas is used to generate electricity and excess heat is used for the MSF process.[5]

In 1951, Kuwait became the first country in the world to commission a desalination plant for drinking water production. The first plant was a submerged tube plant located in Shuwaikh. This was replaced in 1960 with the first MSF desalination plant with a capacity of 4,546 m3/d.[6] Kuwait rapidly installed more MSF plants, with the unit capacity increasing with time and experience.[7]

Sanitation network and wastewater treatment plants

Kuwait is ranked first among Arab countries and fifth globally in the coverage of sanitation services.[8] [9] Approximately 90% of the population has access to water and sanitation services. Inflow to wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) is municipal wastewater, which is received from residential, governmental and commercial buildings, as well as surface water.[10] Storm water infiltrations drain into a separate network from the wastewater network and are discharged untreated into the sea. No fee is charged for wastewater collection in Kuwait. Sanitation services are funded by an annual budget allocated by the government.[11]

As shown in Table 2 and Map 1, there are currently five WWTPs in Kuwait. These are Riqqa, Umm al-Hayman, Sulaibiya, Kabd and Khiran (pilot plant).[12]

Table 2: Kuwait’s wastewater treatment plant capacity.[13]

Jahra*Riqqa Umm al-HaymanKhiran/WafraSulaibiyaKabd
Commenced 1982 1982 2001 20032005 2012
Initial capacity (m3/d)65K 85K 27K 4K425K 180K
Expanded/max capacity (m3/d)86K 180K - -600K 270K
Current inflow (m3/d)220K 220K 20K 3.84K450K 180K
Tertiary treated effluent (m3/d) - 166K 15.68K -- 180K
RO water treated (m3/d) - - - -320K -

Sulaibiya WWTP

The Sulaibiya WWTP and reclamation plant was commenced in 2005 as the largest facility in the world that applies RO and ultrafiltration (UF) membrane water treatment, to treat all sewage water generated from Kuwait City and Hawalli.[14]

Sulaibiya WWTP alone treats approximately 64% of the country’s sewage. The plant is divided into two sections: the biological treatment plant and the reclamation plant.[15] Pre-screened effluent first undergoes a backwash of UF. Then, the inlet distributes the resulting flow to nine aeration tanks, with a total volume of 208,900 m3. The mixed liquor then flows to a secondary clarifier to be pumped next to the UF plant. UF-purified effluent proceeds to the RO section, which contains 21,000 membranes that filter the effluent through three successive stages. As a result, 85% of the inlet to UF/RO is purified, while the remaining is rejected as brine and dumped into the sea.[16]

[1] Statistical Yearbook Water Edition 2019, 2020. Ministry of Electricity and Water.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Finan, A and Kazimi, M, 2013. Potential benefits of innovative desalination technology development in Kuwait. Kuwait Center for Natural Resources and the Environment Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Prescott-Allen, R, 2011. Global Environmental Monitoring System/Water Quality Monitoring System, with data for an additional 29 countries. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Washington, DC.
[9] Aleisa, E and Zubari, W, 2017. Wastewater reuse in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): The lost opportunity. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 189(11): 553.
[10] Enezi, G et al., 2004. Heavy metals content of municipal wastewater and sludges in Kuwait. Journal of Environmental Science and Health Part A, 39(2): 397-407.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Aleisa, E and Alshayji, K, 2019. Analysis on reclamation and reuse of wastewater in Kuwait. Journal of Engineering Research, 7(1): 1-13.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Hamoda, M, 2013. Advances in wastewater treatment technology for water reuse. Journal of Engineering Research, 1(1): 1-27.
[15] Aleisa, E and Alshayji, K, 2019. Analysis on reclamation and reuse of wastewater in Kuwait. Kuwait Journal of Science and Engineering, 7(1).
[16] Ibid.