This paper 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.
- 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.