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Water Use in Kuwait

kuwait towers water use in Kuwait
Photo 1: Kuwait towers. (Source: Safran, Flickr)

Kuwait’s water consumption is among the highest in the world, with per capita consumption averaging 447 litres per day.[1] Figure 1 shows total water use in different sectors.

The country depends on desalination plants for drinking water and brackish groundwater for irrigation and domestic purposes. Desalination plants are the primary source of fresh water, providing around 92% of water for domestic and industrial needs and 60% of total water supply.[2] The groundwater withdrawal rate in 2015 was 255 MCM/yr, of which 54% was used for agriculture, 44% for municipal purposes and 2% for industrial purposes.[3]

  • Municipal
  • Agricultural
  • Industrial

Figure 1: Water use by sector.[4]

Water consumption

Freshwater consumption in Kuwait has a strong seasonal variation. Higher consumption rates are recorded during the hottest months of the year (June-September), when consumption is on average 15-25% higher than the yearly average.[5]

Freshwater consumption increased from 30.18 MCM in 1970 to 106.57 MCM in 1980 and reached 730.39 MCM in 2019. Freshwater production (from desalination plants), gross consumption and per capita consumption are presented in Table 1.[6]

Brackish water consumption totaled 2.40 MCM in 1957 and reached 51.49 MCM in 1980 and 107.365 MCM in 1995.[8] Gross consumption reached 63.28 MCM by the end of 2019. Table 2 illustrates brackish groundwater production and gross and per capita water consumption levels.

Table 1: Freshwater production, and gross and per capita water consumption.[7]

YearTotal production (MCM/yr)Gross consumption (MCM/yr)Per capita consumption (L/d)
1999387.40382.19485.98
2005510.89506.92464.16
2010682.60609.87466.43
2015682.60682.48440.97
2019729.33730.39419.15

Table 2: Brackish groundwater production, and gross and per capita water consumption.[9]

YearTotal production (MCM/yr)Gross consumption (MCM/yr)Gross per capita consumption (L/d)
1999125.79118.58151.38
2005163.87154.24141.38
2010111.07102.9278.65
201583.0374.5848.19
201971.5163.2836.37

Water use in agriculture

The agriculture sector is the major consumer of groundwater resources, even though agriculture does not contribute to more than 0.4% of Kuwait’s GDP.

Figure 2 shows the trends in water consumption in agriculture over the period 1990-2010.

The main crops cultivated include cereals, fodder, vegetables, fruits and dates, grown mainly in open fields using traditional flood irrigation.

Flood irrigation methods are used on 63% of the agricultural land. The use of such traditional methods results in high water losses and low irrigation efficiencies.[10]

Figure 2: Agricultural water consumption (MCM) (1990-2010).[11]

Water demand projections

The projections of freshwater demand indicate that by 2025, demand could range between 722 MCM/yr (2 MCM/d) and 3,036 MCM/yr (8.3 MCM/d).[12] Desalination capacity, beyond that available in 2000, would range between 1.2 MCM/d and 9.1 MCM/d.[13] According to the Ministry of Electricity and Water, the installed capacity of desalination plants is expected to reach 3.85 MCM/yr by 2024.[14] Water demand is expected to increase by 6% annually until 2030.

[1] Business Yearbook, Kuwait, 2018.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ismail, H, 2015. Kuwait: Food and water security. Future Directions International.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Mukhopadhyay, A and Akber, A, 2018. Sustainable water management in Kuwait: Current situation and possible correctional measures. Int. J. Sus. Dev. Plann., 13(3): 425-435.
[6] Statistical Yearbook Water Edition 2019, 2020. Ministry of Electricity and Water.
[7] Statistical Yearbook Water Edition 2019, 2020. Ministry of Electricity and Water.
[8] Statistical Yearbook Water Edition 2019, 2020. Ministry of Electricity and Water.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Al-Zubari, W et al., 2017. An overview of the GCC Unified Water Strategy (2016-2035). Desalination and Water Treatment 81: 1-18.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Burney, N et al., 2001. Forecasting of freshwater demand in Kuwait. The Arabian Journal for Science and Engineering, 26(2B): 99-113.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Statistical Yearbook Water Edition 2019, 2020. Ministry of Electricity and Water.