Hydrogeology of Djibouti

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Africa Groundwater Atlas >> Hydrogeology by country >> Hydrogeology of Djibouti

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Djibouti, located on the Gulf of Aden at the mouth of the Suez Canal, was in antiquity part of kingdoms with strong links to ancient Ethiopia and Egypt. Its proximity to the Arabian Peninsula meant Islam was adopted early. It was colonised by France in the late 19th century, and the construction of railroads to Ethiopia meant it became an important regional port. It won independence as the Republic of Djibouti in 1977. The independent country’s first president remained in power until 1999. In the 1990s the country experienced a civil war that ended in a power sharing agreement in 2000, since when there have been periodic episodes of civil unrest and a number of contested elections, but overall, it is perceived internationally as having relative political stability.

This, combined with Djibouti’s strategic location, have led to it being the site of a number of military bases for foreign personnel, including US troops, as well as continuingly important ports, which bring in the majority of national revenue, and therefore foreign relations are very important to the country’s economic stability. The Djibouti franc is pegged to the USD. The economy is dominated by the service sector, which accounts for 80% of GDP, with commercial activities focused on the country’s free trade policies and transport links. Industry, including fishing and fish processing, and growing salt production, accounts for around 17% of GDP. The desert environment limits agricultural production, which accounts for only 3% of GDP. Rural people traditionally relied on nomadic pastoralism, but rural populations are low: three quarters of people live in cities. Djibouti’s limited natural resources mean it relies heavily on energy and food imports. Despite the importance of services to the economy, there is very high unemployment. Nevertheless, relative political stability also means that the country hosts many refugees, from surrounding African countries and more recently from Yemen.

Djibouti is an arid country with very limited surface water resources. Over 90% of water supplies come from groundwater. In some areas, groundwater levels are known to be deep and/or groundwater is known to have high levels of mineralisation


Dr Kirsty Upton and Brighid Ó Dochartaigh, British Geological Survey, UK

Dr Imogen Bellwood-Howard, Institute of Development Studies, UK

Please cite this page as: Upton, Ó Dochartaigh and Bellwood-Howard, 2018.

Bibliographic reference: Upton K, Ó Dochartaigh BÉ and Bellwood-Howard, I. 2018. Africa Groundwater Atlas: Hydrogeology of Djibouti. British Geological Survey. Accessed [date you accessed the information]. http://earthwise.bgs.ac.uk/index.php/Hydrogeology_of_Djibouti

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Geographical Setting

Djibouti. Map developed from USGS GTOPOPO30; GADM global administrative areas; and UN Revision of World Urbanization Prospects. For more information on the map development and datasets see the geography resource page


Capital city Djibouti
Region East Africa
Border countries Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia
Total surface area* 23,200 km2 (2,320,000 ha)
Total population (2015)* 887,900
Rural population (2015)* 192,100 (22%)
Urban population (2015)* 695,800 (78%)
UN Human Development Index (HDI) [highest = 1] (2014)* 0.4704

* Source: FAO Aquastat


These maps and graphs were developed from the CRU TS 3.21 dataset produced by the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK. For more information see the climate resource page.

Average monthly precipitation for Djibouti showing minimum and maximum (light blue), 25th and 75th percentile (blue), and median (dark blue) rainfall Average monthly temperature for Djibouti showing minimum and maximum (orange), 25th and 75th percentile (red), and median (black) temperature Quarterly precipitation over the period 1950-2012 Monthly precipitation (blue) over the period 2000-2012 compared with the long term monthly average (red)


Soil Map of Djibouti, from the European Commission Joint Research Centre: European Soil Portal. For more information on the map see the soil resource page

Land cover

Land Cover Map of Djibouti, from the European Space Agency GlobCover 2.3, 2009. For more information on the map see the land cover resource page


The geology map shows a simplified version of the geology at a national scale. More information is available in the report UN (1989) (see References section, below).

Geology of Djibouti at 1:5 million scale. Developed from USGS map (Persits et al. 2002). For more information on the map development and datasets see the geology resource page


The hydrogeology map below shows a simplified version of the type and productivity of the main aquifers at a national scale (see the hydrogeology Map resource page for more details).

More information on the hydrogeology of Djibouti is available in the report United Nations (1989) (see References section, below).

Hydrogeology of Djibouti at 1:5million scale. For more information on how the map was developed see the hydrogeology map resource page


Hydrogeology Key.png

Transboundary aquifers

For further information about transboundary aquifers, please see the Transboundary aquifers resources page.


References with more information on the geology and hydrogeology of Djibouti can be accessed through the Africa Groundwater Literature Archive.

United Nations. 1989. Groundwater in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa: Djibouti. United Nations Department of Technical Cooperation for Development.

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Africa Groundwater Atlas >> Hydrogeology by country >> Hydrogeology of Djibouti