19 Countries with No Rivers (One is 3X Bigger than Texas!)

Written by Kristen Holder
Published: April 8, 2022
Image Credit travelwild/Shutterstock.com
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There are 19 countries around the world with no rivers in them. Most of the larger ones are in the Middle East, but a few are found in other locations like Europe or Pacific Islands.

Incredibly, one nation on this list is more than 3X the size of Texas while another is more than twice its size. Yet, the largest nation on this list is home to 35 million people in spite of having no rivers inside its national borders.

Water shortages are becoming too common of a problem around the world which makes it especially taxing on countries that had limited water to start. Let’s look at the water resources in 19 countries with no rivers or running water.

What Are Some Countries Without Rivers or Running Water?

A list of 19 countries without rivers or flowing water is:

  1. Comoros
  2. Djibouti
  3. Libya
  4. Malta
  5. Vatican City
  6. Monaco
  7. Kiribati
  8. Marshall Islands
  9. Nauru
  10. Tonga
  11. Tuvalu
  12. Bahrain
  13. Kuwait
  14. Maldives
  15. Oman
  16. Qatar
  17. Saudi Arabia
  18. United Arab Emirates
  19. Yemen

Below we’ll dive into more details on 12 of these countries, including how they function without flowing rivers that create a continuous source of freshwater!

Countries in Africa with No Rivers or Running Water

There are three countries in Africa with no running water. Comoros and Djibouti are small while Libya is the second-largest country in the world without rivers.

1. Comoros

Countries with No Rivers - Comoros
Comoros is quite lush in spite of having no rivers.

mbrand85/Shutterstock.com

Comoros
LocatedBetween Madagascar and Mozambique
Area719 square miles
Population850,886

Comoros is an island nation in East Africa that gets almost all its drinking water from underground sources. Aquifers, or the water that exists deep in the ground, are tapped as a primary drinking source. While Comoros has no rivers, you’ll notice its terrain is still very tropical looking. That’s because parts of the island still receive more than 100 inches of rainfall per year (enough to classify as a tropical rain forest!). Comoros primarily doesn’t have rivers because its area is simply too small to generate large flows of water.

Rises in sea level have been affecting how salty the groundwater is getting, which puts a primary freshwater resource into jeopardy. Human development has exacerbated the situation.

2. Djibouti

Lake Assal
This lake is in Djibouti but it’s a salt lake.

iStock.com/Dave Primov

Djibouti
LocatedHorn of Africa near Ethiopia and Somalia
Area (Sq Miles)8,958 square miles
Population921,804

A lot of the countries on this list do have wadis, which means there’s a saturated riverbed running through an area that does have a water flow when seasonal rains come. It’s a part-time river.

Djibouti is a country in East Africa that’s arid but has wadis. 95% of Djibouti’s water supply comes from groundwater. Most of the water is used in urban areas and for irrigation.

Like Comoros, Djibouti’s water is also being contaminated by saltwater. Attempts to remove the salt from aquifers are promising. The idea is that being able to use desalination procedures will allow the country to use the water they already know they have instead of finding more contaminated sources.  

3. Libya

Most of Libya’s cities are on the coast.

Hussein Eddeb/Shutterstock.com

Libya
LocatedBetween Egypt and Algeria on the Mediterranean
Area (Sq Miles)679,363 square miles
Population6,992,701

Incredibly, Libya is larger than the state of Alaska, yet has no rivers inside its borders!

Libya does have wadis however most of its groundwater supplies are not renewable. It’s a North African country, with most of its cities lying on the coast. Like other countries, development has depleted aquifers and encroaching sea levels are causing a salinity problem.

Libya’s population has tripled since the 1950s. The water crisis is bigger here than it is in other parts of Africa because of a booming population that is putting more demand on an already depleted system.

With no rivers, erratic rainfall, and disappearing groundwater, the situation in Libya is an emergency. It may get so bad that future development of the county will be halted.

Countries in Asia with No Rivers or Running Water

Asia has 8 countries with no rivers and almost all are located on the Arabian Peninsula. The one exception is Maldives, which is a chain of islands in the Indian Ocean.

4. Bahrain

Countries with No Rivers - Bahrain
Bahrain has built an ambitious sky line and has a density of nearly 5,000 people per square mile in spite of having limited access to freswhater.

PREJU SURESH/Shutterstock.com

Bahrain
LocatedIsland in the Persian Gulf
Area (Sq Miles)303 square smiles
Population1,569,446

Climate change and the subsequent rising sea waters also affect Bahrain. This country has been using desalination on groundwater, seawater, and sewage for industrial, municipal, and agricultural use.

88% of Bahrain’s water supply comes from 5 desalination plants that are pricy to run. The government has kept the municipal water supply cheap so people have access to clean water.

Investigations into the use of water vapor, captured rainfall, and condensation are underway. The hope is that water can be generated this way for agricultural purposes.

5. Kuwait

Countries with No Rivers - Kuwait
Kuwait gets 93% of its water from desalinization.

Anson Fernandez Dionisio/Shutterstock.com

Kuwait
LocatedOn Persian Gulf near Iraq and Saudi Arabia
Area (Sq Miles)6,880
Population4,420,110

Kuwait does have some wadis, though they don’t make much of a difference in the country’s water management.

Due to the oil industry, growth and development have boomed in Kuwait over the last 50 years. Up to 93% of Kuwait’s water supply comes from the desalination of brackish water.

As is happening in some other countries, the taxing of resources that comes from desalting water is causing pollution and unsustainable consumption of fossil fuels. One problem with sustainability is leading to another.

Based on the oil needed for water and electricity, in 30 years Kuwaitis may be forced to live without fresh water and air conditioning if the situation doesn’t improve.

6. Maldives

Most Beautiful Islands - Maldives Island
The Maldives is a popular tourist destination that needs more fresh water.

Lifestyle Travel Photo/Shutterstock.com

Comoros
LocatedIndian Ocean south of India
Area (Sq Miles)120
Population557,426

Because of the abundant reefs and beaches, the Maldives is a popular tourist destination. This is exacerbating the problems with a strained freshwater system.

A 2004 tsunami devastated already taxed natural reservoirs on the island. People that live on outer islands are without drinking water and rely on imported bottled water and rainfall. Most of the groundwater in some places is too contaminated for potable purposes.

It’s expensive to ship resources in from the mainland, and water desalination plants drive the prices of imported resources through the roof. Efforts at finding sustainable solutions are underway.

7. Oman

Countries with No Rivers - Oman
Oman is evaluating building dams on Wadis to store water

Lukas Bischoff Photograph/Shutterstock.com

Oman
LocatedArabian Peninsula next to Yemen
Area (Sq Miles)119,500
Population4,829,473

Wadis do exist in Oman, but almost all of Oman’s water resources rely on groundwater. There are projects in place to try and build dams on the wadis that flood so catastrophically. This would allow the county to store water for future use.

There is more land in Oman that can be farmed to increase agricultural production. However, even the current agricultural systems in place are unsustainable.

Oman has a harsh climate and the unpredictable nature of both drought and flood impacts water potability across the nation. When natural disasters occur, parts of the population must migrate from the driest regions so they can access clean water.

The recycling of greywater in municipal systems is another possibility that Oman is considering. With most of the grey water coming from showers, almost 83% of all freshwater is being consumed in households.

8. Qatar

Countries with No Rivers - Qatar
Qatar has seen its economy boom thanks to oil revenues.

HasanZaidi/Shutterstock.com

Qatar
LocatedPeninsula in the Persian Gulf
Area (Sq Miles)4,471 square miles
Population2,795,484

Economic growth is rapidly happening because of the oil industry. 99% of the country’s water comes from desalination. Again, this is expensive and generally unsustainable. The energy consumption of desalination plants is also huge.

Like a lot of places on this list, Qatar has wadis. These wadis do not solve the water crisis facing Qatar. Except for the wadis that rarely form, there is no freshwater surface water in Qatar.

An effort is being made to find sustainable water sources so Qatar can grow its own food. Water rationing for conservation purposes is being considered.

9. Saudi Arabia

Dam in Saudi Arabia
There are hundreds of dams on wadis in Saudi Arabia.

kv naushad/Shutterstock.com

Saudi Arabia
LocatedLargest country on the Arabian Peninsula
Area (Sq Miles)830,000 square miles
Population34,218,169

Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the world with no rivers at 830,000 square miles. Or put another way, it’s slightly more than 3 times the size of the state of Texas!

Saudi Arabia is another example on our list of an arid country facing the consequences of climate change. In regions studied, rainfall has decreased while temperatures have increased.

There are wadis in Saudi Arabia that have been dammed up. In fact, there are hundreds of dams on wadis. This is an attempt to catch seasonal surface water from rain for consumption.

Because of the success of the oil industry over the last decades, Saudi Arabia has seen unprecedented growth. In 39 years, their population grew from 6.9 million to 26 million. Today it stands at just under 35 million. The standard of living has also dramatically increased which brings an elevation in water consumption with it.

A myriad of water sources are used in Saudi Arabia to try and piece together enough water for national consumption. Groundwater, seasonal surface water, rainwater collections, desalination plants, and recycled wastewater programs are all in place.

10. United Arab Emirates

Countries with no Rivers - Dubai

travelwild/Shutterstock.com

United Arab Emirates
LocatedArabian Peninsula next to Saudi Arabia and Oman
Area (Sq Miles)32,300 square miles
Population9,282,410

The United Arab Emirates has wadis, but again, it isn’t enough to sustain the country’s water needs. Like most other countries on this list, population growth, industry, and an increase in agriculture has led to a water crisis in this arid country.

Groundwater is taxed, desalination plants exist, and wastewater is recycled. Agriculture uses up about 70% of the groundwater that’s available every year, although wastewater for agriculture is in development.

11. Yemen

Countries with No Rivers - Yemen
Yemen faces both war and a severe water crisis.

MhmdArt/Shutterstock.com

Yemen
LocatedSouth of Saudi Arabia on the Arabian Peninsula
Area (Sq Miles)214,000
Population30,491,000

Yemen is a semi-arid country in the Middle East that’s facing a severe water crisis. There are no plans in place to abate the situation even though their population is booming.

There are wadis here, but they aren’t accessed for water resources. Yemen is burning through its non-sustainable water at a rate that’s faster than anywhere else in the Middle East.

The catastrophe that’s about to unfold for Yemen if something doesn’t change will result in mass deaths due to dehydration. The nation could crumble under the pressure of needed water resources.

Yemenis are already dealing with food shortages due to a lack of water and there’s been a rise in health problems related to dehydration. Internal conflicts take their toll as well because water cannot be monitored in those areas.

European Countries with No Rivers or Running Water

Europe has three countries with no rivers. Two are extremely small – the Vatican and Monaco – while Malta is an island in the Mediterranean.

12. Malta

Countries with No Rivers - Malta

aappp/Shutterstock.com

Malta
LocatedMediterranean Sea
Area (Sq Miles)122 square miles
Population516,100

Malta is an island in the Mediterranean that is a hotspot for tourism. While most of the country relies on the income from tourism, the resource consumption by tourists is exacerbating the water crisis.

Salinity levels in aquifers and other groundwater sources are becoming too contaminated with salt water to be used. Even the water that’s coming out of taps in this country is too salty.

Chemicals from agriculture are also polluting the groundwater on which certain settlements are fully dependent. While desalination through reverse osmosis is a tactic being implemented, it is not wide-reaching and certain places still have limited potable water.

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About the Author

I'm a freelance ghostwriter that specializes in SEO content. I have always loved writing, and when COVID happened, I went at my passion full tilt. I'm currently in Spokane, WA by way of Phoenix, AZ, though I'm originally from Sacramento, CA. Freelancing allows me the freedom to move around as I please.

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