The Costs of Municipal Water Supply in Bahrain
In this paper, Dr. Waleed Al-Zubari, Professor of Water Resources Management at Arabian Gulf University (AGU), argues that revising Bahrain's municipal water tariff structure would help conserve water, enhance cost recovery and contribute to achieving social equity among water consumers. It finds:
- The costs of municipal water supply in Bahrain, 88 per cent of which comes from desalination plants, is much higher than the price that households and businesses pay for it.
- Official direct government subsidies for the municipal water sector stood at BD123 million ($326m) in the financial year 2012/13, having risen by 173 per cent since 2006 as water demand and the costs of domestically produced natural gas increased. Even water consumption of over 100 m3/month – a category into which 31 per cent of subscribers fall – receives a subsidy of more than 70 per cent.
- This does not account for wastewater collection, treatment and reuse, all of which are provided free of charge.
- On current plans and projections, Bahrain will be able to increase desalination capacity to meet municipal water demand to 2030, but this will entail heavy financial, economic and environmental burdens.
- Between 2013 and 2030, this would result in cumulative costs of $11 billion and consume 15.9 billion m3 of Bahrain’s gas – driving competition for limited gas resources between industrial and municipal sectors – as well as emitting 78 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2).
- Additional desalination costs to society not analysed in this paper include the impacts of gaseous emissions on local health and of brine discharges on seawater quality and marine ecosystems.
- Revising the municipal water tariff structure would help conserve water, enhance cost recovery and contribute to achieving social equity among water consumers. Implementing a tariff for servicing of wastewater and provision for reuse would have similar benefits, as well as encouraging efficient water use in irrigation.