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Water use

In 2002 the total water withdrawal was around 913 million m3, compared to 538 million m3 in 1993 (Table 4, Table 5 and Table 6). The per capita water consumption in Kuwait is high. 54 percent of the water withdrawn was used for agriculture, 44 percent for municipal purposes and 2 percent for industrial purposes (Figure 1). Of the 492 million m3 withdrawn for agriculture, 80 percent was used for productive agriculture, 9 percent for landscape greening and 11 percent for garden watering (but it also includes some non-drinking uses at household level). Of the water withdrawn for productive agriculture, 300 million m3 is brackish water from private farmsĺ boreholes at Al Abdali and Al Wafra (based on 12 hours operation and 270 days/year with an average discharge of 40 m3/h per well). 66 million m3 are treated wastewater effluent (50 percent tertiary treatment and 50 percent more advanced treatment).

Fresh primary groundwater withdrawal amounts to 255 million m3/year, leading to an extraction of more than 12 times the annual groundwater inflow (20 million m3) (Figure 2). Farmers are only allowed to withdraw water from the Kuwait group aquifer and there were about 1 767 wells in 1994. The water used for livestock purposes is pumped by the Ministry of Electricity and Water (MEW) from the Damman group aquifer through deep artesian wells. Continued heavy extraction was estimated to have led to a decline in the groundwater level of 200 metres by the year 2000.

Overdrafting of brackish groundwater over the past decades has led to high drawdown and at times even depletion as well as increased salinity levels. Its use for agriculture is limited to plant species that tolerate high salinity levels. As an example, in 1985 crop irrigation was being carried out by pumping 53-67 million m3 of brackish groundwater per year from the well fields in Al Wafra and Abdali-Um Nigga. Existing yield, estimated potential yield, and water salinity of each well field at that time are shown in Table 7 (UNU, 1995).

Desalinated seawater is currently used for all purposes, although the largest share is allocated to the drinking supply. Treated wastewater effluent is usually a mix of tertiary and more advanced treatment of wastewater. Tertiary treated sewage water is mainly used for the irrigation of fodder crops and date palms and also for landscaping.

During the period 1925-1950, Kuwait imported freshwater from the Shatt al-Arab in Iraq, some 100 km northwest from Kuwait, to supplement the water obtained from wells. Further exploitation of water resources was initiated by the rapid development of the oil industry and commerce in the 1950s, when shortage problems became a constraint to economic development (UNU, 1995).


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