A previously published computational multi-phase model of a polymer-electrolyte membrane fuel cell cathode has been extended in order to account for the anode side and the electrolyte membrane. The model has been applied to study the water balance of a fuel cell during operation under various humidification conditions. It was found that the specific surface area of the electrolyte in the catalyst layers close to the membrane is of critical importance for the overall water balance. Applying a high specific electrolyte surface area close to the membrane (a water-uptake layer) can prevent drying out of the anode and flooding at the cathode while the average membrane water content is only weakly affected. The results also indicate that in contrast to common presumption membrane dehydration may occur at either anode or cathode side, entirely depending on the direction of the net water transport because the predominant transport mechanism is diffusion. Consequently, operating conditions with a high net water transport from anode to cathode should be avoided as it is important to keep the cathode catalyst layer well humidified in order to prevent high protonic losses. Addition of the micro-porous layer did not affect the overall water balance or membrane water content in our study.