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Government Officials Discuss Challenges Facing Water at AGU

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A group of government officials discussed the challenges facing the water sector in the Kingdom of Bahrain during the National Workshop on "Assessment of the Water Sector and Sectoral Strategies in the Kingdom of Bahrain” hosted by Arabian Gulf University (AGU) on Thursday, 5 July as part of the project “Development of the National Water Strategy (NWS) and its Implementation Plan for the Kingdom of Bahrain 2030”.
Dr Waleed Zubari, Professor of Water Resources Management at AGU and director of the NWS Project, said, “The Kingdom of Bahrain faces a chronic challenge of severe water scarcity and steady increase in water demands due to population growth and socio-economic development activities. Bahrain is primarily dependent on desalination to meet its municipal water supply, and it represents about 57% of total water resources. However, desalination technology is expensive and is associated with high financial costs, and requires government support as municipal water supply is heavily subsidized, which increases pressures on the Kingdom’s national budget, and especially in these times with the decline in oil prices. In addition, desalination is energy intensive, and drains a great deal of energy in the form of natural gas, which impacts the Kingdom’s gas reserves - the main source of energy in the kingdom. Finally, desalination is associated with environmental costs related to pollution of air due to gaseous emissions and the marine environment owing to desalination plants discharge.



He further added: ”This makes the kingdom to seriously consider policies to ensure waste and losses reduction in water consumption as much as possible to minimise these costs. A decrease in the amounts of water consumption in the municipal sector will have, in addition to lowering financial, energy, and environmental costs, a direct impact on the sanitation sector in terms of reducing the quantities of resulting wastewater, thereby cutting the costs of collection and treatment and Tubli station’s hydraulic load issues, which lead to the generated wastewater and eventually the discharge of untreated or partially treated wastewater into the marine environment.”
Dr Waleed Zubari added, “recent scientific studies on climate change have indicated that the region and Bahrain will be experiencing an increase in the extreme events of precipitation, where large quantities of rain will fall within short periods of a day or two. This will lead to the availability of relatively high amounts of surface water, which calls for studying the possibility of investing this water in recharging groundwater through injection into the Kingdom’s aquifers.”
Dr Zubari called for increased reliance on the private sector in the production and operation of desalination plants to reduce the financial costs of water supply.  Meanwhile, the assessment report stressed the importance of the sanitation sector and investment in the reuse of treated sewage, as it is the only water resource that increases with the increasing population, and having a great ability to greatly reduce pressure on water resources in the Kingdom.  Bahrain has recently followed two major policies in the sanitation sector, namely a decentralisation policy and privatisation policy. These are expected to have a high impact on economic and technical efficiency of the sanitation sector.
The report also pointed out the need for innovative solutions in wastewater reuse and cost recovery, not only for agricultural irrigation, but also for the industrial sector, recreational parks and other activities where this water can be used with low risks to health and the environment.
The report commended the steps taken by the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain to review the water consumption tariff. These measures led to a decrease in water demand and consequent costs and cost recovery, ensuring financial sustainability of the drinking water sector and guaranteeing the current quality of service. The report also noted the importance of reviewing government support and subsidies to be directed to categories less consuming of water.
The workshop was held with the participation of all national governmental bodies related to the water sector, aiming to present the results of the water sector assessment report to all water stakeholders in the Kingdom, in order to discuss its contents and come to an agreement regarding the major challenges facing the water sector in the Kingdom of Bahrain. This is an essential step to formulating the National Water Strategy and to guarantee its alignment with the strategic directions of the different sectors of water in the Kingdom of Bahrain.



It is worth noting that AGU has signed an agreement with the Water Resources Council of the Kingdom of Bahrain for the preparation of the National Water Strategy and its Implementation Plan 2030. The strategy aims to establish a sustainable, equitable, safe and efficient water resources management system that contributes to the sustainable social and economic development of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

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