Hydrogeology of Djibouti
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Djibouti, located where the Red Sea joins the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, at a crossroads linking Africa to the Middle East, and at the mouth of the Suez Canal, has always been a trading hub. The area of present-day Djibouti was once part of a series of ancient kingdoms with strong links to ancient Ethiopia and Egypt. Its proximity to the Arabian Peninsula meant Islam was adopted early. It was later 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 2000, there have been periodic episodes of civil unrest and a number of contested elections, but overall Djibouti is perceived internationally as having being relatively politically stable.
This, combined with Djibouti’s strategic location, have led to it being the site of a number of military bases for foreign personnel, as well as continuing to have regionally important ports, which bring in the majority of national revenue. It is a hub for international naval forces combating piracy in one of the world's busiest shipping routes. Foreign relations are therefore 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 now small: three quarters of Djibouti's inhabitants live in cities. Its limited natural resources mean that Djibouti 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 has become an important country of passage for refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants from surrounding countries.
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
Terms and conditions
|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
Djibouti's climate is of tropical dry type, with a cool season (22-30 °C) from October to April and a warm season (30-40 °C) from May to September. Average annual evapotranspiration is estimated at 2,000 mm. Average annual rainfall is very low and erratic.
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.
Surface waterDjibouti has no perennial rivers. The hydrographic system is divided into two zones, one draining towards the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden, the other towards the western plains of the country. Rainfall is low and erratic, usually occurring as heavy storm events that often cause flooding. Ephemeral rivers flow after rainfall events. There are two significant lakes, Lakes Abhe and Assal, with a combined area of 100 km² (FAO AQUASTAT 2005).
|Rural population with access to safe drinking water (%)||64.7|
|Urban population with access to safe drinking water (%)||97.4|
|Population affected by water related disease||No data||No data||No data||No data||No data||No data|
|Total internal renewable water resources (cubic metres/inhabitant/year)||337.9|
|Total exploitable water resources (Million cubic metres/year)||No data||No data||No data||No data||No data||No data|
|Freshwater withdrawal as % of total renewable water resources||6.267|
|Total renewable groundwater (Million cubic metres/year)||15|
|Exploitable: Regular renewable groundwater (Million cubic metres/year)||No data||No data||No data||No data||No data||No data|
|Groundwater produced internally (Million cubic metres/year)||15|
|Fresh groundwater withdrawal (primary and secondary) (Million cubic metres/year)||18|
|Groundwater: entering the country (total) (Million cubic metres/year)||No data||No data||No data||No data||No data||No data|
|Groundwater: leaving the country to other countries (total) (Million cubic metres/year)||No data||No data||No data||No data||No data||No data|
|Industrial water withdrawal (all water sources) (Million cubic metres/year)||0|
|Municipal water withdrawal (all water sources) (Million cubic metres/year)||16|
|Agricultural water withdrawal (all water sources) (Million cubic metres/year)||3|
|Irrigation water withdrawal (all water sources)1 (Million cubic metres/year)||2.5|
|Irrigation water requirement (all water sources)1 (Million cubic metres/year)||0.8|
|Area of permanent crops (ha)||0|
|Cultivated land (arable and permanent crops) (ha)||2,000|
|Total area of country cultivated (%)||0.0862|
|Area equipped for irrigation by groundwater (ha)||670|
|Area equipped for irrigation by mixed surface water and groundwater (ha)||0|
These statistics are sourced from FAO Aquastat. They are the most recent available information in the Aquastat database. More information on the derivation and interpretation of these statistics can be seen on the FAO Aquastat website.
Further water and related statistics can be accessed at the Aquastat Main Database.
1 More information on irrigation water use and requirement statistics
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).
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).
The high evapotranspiration combined with intermittent rainfall mean that a very low proportion of rainfall infiltrates as groundwater recharge, although indirect recharge infiltrates from ephemeral river flows after heavy rainfall events.
For further information about transboundary aquifers, please see the Transboundary aquifers resources page.
References with information on the geology and hydrogeology of Djibouti can be accessed through the Africa Groundwater Literature Archive.
FAO AQUASTAT. 2005. Djibouti. FAO AQUASTAT.
United Nations. 1989. Groundwater in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa: Djibouti. United Nations Department of Technical Cooperation for Development.