Water Resources in the Arabian Peninsula 1921–1960

ISBN:  (13) 978-1-85207-795-2         Extent:   2 volumes, 1,000 pages

Editor:  A. Burdett      Published: 1995
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available

The discovery and development of local water resources is an important theme in the history of the Arab states. These volumes draw together, for the benefit of scholars, surviving historical records on the water resources of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the Trucial States and Oman, including the evaluation and management of water supplies; surveys and exploration, and water divining. Material has also been included on the Jeddah water scheme in Saudi Arabia.
This small collection does not cover the Tigris-Euphrates basin, for which abundant historical material on local irrigation schemes is available [see, for example, Iraq Administration Reports 1914-1932, Archive Editions, 1992], nor the Jordan Valley, where a separate study of the complex political issues is required.


The first volume of the present work provides a range of early material on Bahrain, from the 1920s to the 1940s, dealing with the evaluation and management of Bahrain´s relatively adequate ground-water supply. The documents show concern with wastage and contamination. The first volume also reflects the intense period of prospecting for water in the 1950s, particularly in the Trucial States, but also in Doha and Muscat. Interesting accounts of surveys and exploration are given, including use of water divining. A section on the Jeddah water scheme concludes the volume.
The second volume brings together historical papers on the problems of water supply in Kuwait. Most of the volume is given over to the political issues in the 1950s of deriving water from the Shatt al-´Arab and the question of dependence on Iraq. A pipeline is discussed, but a proposed agreement fails on Kuwaiti concern over security and sovereignty. There is also material on the evaluation of domestic supplies and the search for new sources.


Volume 1: Bahrain, Qatar, Trucial States, Oman, Saudi Arabia
  • Initial assessment of increasing water shortages, search for new ground-water sources, and boring operations, especially those undertaken by Eastern and General Syndicate, 1921-26
  • Khalil Kanoo disagrees with Eastern and General´s rights to bore for water, 1927
  • Problems of water wastage and preventative measures, a ban on boring for new supplies and RAF requirements at Muharraq, 1939-42
  • Water supply scheme for Manamah, 1940; 1945-50
  • Sinking of new wells in various locations, and the continuing problem of wastage, 1946-50
  • Assessment of shrinking water table at Bahrain, 1953
  • Petroleum Concessions Ltd drilling operations, 1937
  • Report detailing all known masonry wells in Qatar, c. 1951
  • Necessity of supply for Doha, 1951
  • General aspects of Qatar supply, 1955
Trucial States:
  • Arrival of water prospector at Sharjah, 1944
  • The search for sub-soil water by a diviner, tours of the area by political officer reviewing existing sources, recommendations for development, and planning of drilling operations, 1953
  • Special problems with Buraimi supply: the falaj system, 1954
  • Progress reports, especially for Ras-al-Khaimah and Abu Dhabi in 1955
  • Abu Dhabi: exploration and development plans of Ruling Family in 1956
  • Ras-al-Khaimah: survey of water resources, 1960
  • Trucial States: surveys and United Nations involvement, 1960

Muscat and Oman:
  • Aspects of irrigation practice, c. 1927-31
  • Search for water sources, 1946
  • Schemes for development, 1950, 1954
Saudi Arabia:
  • Revival of wells at Waziriya in 1933
  • Possible exploration of irrigation potential by US Mission, 1941
  • Jeddah water scheme, 1946-47
  • Larger water development schemes proposed to pipe in water to Mecca, 1948
  • Overviews of Jeddah water schemes, 1950-51
Volume 2: Kuwait:
  • Evaluation of the domestic water supply to Kuwait, interference with Kuwait boatmen delivering same from Iraq, and initial response to piping in water from Zubair, 1933-38
  • Anticipated shortages, attempts to locate any ground-water resources and methods of conveying water from Shatt al-´Arab suggested, 1943-47
  • Water distillation plant, 1947-51
  • Proposal of a canal or pipeline to facilitate freshwater supply from Iraq, 1948-49
  • Benefits of a piping scheme from the Shatt al-´Arab, including irrigation and agricultural benefits, and reviews of costs, 1953
  • Surveys and proposals regarding methods and usage of large-scale water imports from Iraq, 1954
  • Political aspects and implications of obtaining water from Iraq, 1954
  • Kuwaiti demand for guarantees on frontier and sovereignty, Iraqi reluctance, 1956
  • Agreement with Iraq drafted in final form, but rejected again by Supreme Council, 1957
  • New scheme to pipe in water from southern Persia, and possible new local sources, 1960
  • Discovery of new fresh water source at Raudhatain in northern Kuwait, 1962-63


Extracts from volume 2: Kuwait
War Office to India Office, 10 November 1938:
"As was indicated in the discussions on the project of developing a new port for Iraq at the head of the Persian Gulf, the War Office would regard as undesirable any increase of Iraqi influence in Koweit which might tend to draw the Shaikh into a position of dependence on the King of Iraq."
[Extract from final report on the Shatt El Arab scheme, September 1954, prepared on the instructions of HH The Ruler of Kuwait by Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners, London.]
"It is not impossible that, in war, it might be necessary to send a small force to Koweit to assist in the protection of the State; this would be the more likely to arise if oil supplies were discovered and developed in the State."