Oueds, groundwater, dams… dry, Morocco is thirsty

If there is one fact firmly rooted in the minds of Moroccans, it is that the Kingdom has been hit hard by its worst drought in nearly four decades and this catastrophe in prospect, raises fears of another, that of a severe shortage of drinking water at least this year, a consequence of climate change but also of inefficient water management.

If in the past, the increasingly recurrent drought in our country was felt far from urban areas, today it threatens them much more than rural areas and therefore the agricultural sector, affecting its drinking water supply. towns.

The Moroccan situation is symptomatic of a global shortage of fresh water. Indeed, this resource remains meager and represents only 2.5% and only 0.7% is accessible to man while the planet is composed of 70% water. Moreover, it is poorly distributed, 85% to 90% of the world’s population lives in the driest part of the planet. Every minute, five people die in the world because they do not have access to drinking water. The UN also considers that by 2030, water demand will have exceeded global production by 40%. Water suddenly becomes a major environmental issue.

To this end, Wednesday, August 3, even Europe has done its part. The European Commission has called on Member States to make efforts to treat wastewater and reuse it in the agricultural sector. But the phenomenon is particularly more crucial in countries of sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa. The forecasts for Morocco thus estimate at 80% the loss of its water resources in the next 25 years in the face of global warming.

World Resources Institute (WRI) indicates that Morocco will reach an extremely high level of water stress by 2040 (the Kingdom today has only 500 cubic meters of fresh water per inhabitant per year, compared to 2,500 cubic meters in the sixties when the Kingdom had no more than 12 million inhabitants). As a reminder, we are in water stress at less than 1,000 cubic meters of fresh water per inhabitant over a period of one year. That is to say if we are in a critical threshold because now the demand for water greatly exceeds our available water resources.

The Moroccan Executive explains this shortage by the low rainfall. But the scarcity of rain, linked to global warming and the overexploitation of groundwater are indeed significant causes of the shortage of fresh water in our country. The latter has been subject to climatic hazards for some time and has suffered a severe rainfall deficit since September 2021 and an alarming drop in dam reserves of nearly 89% compared to the annual average, according to official statistics.

As a result, Moroccan cities have been drawing from the groundwater since the beginning of the year to ensure their supply of fresh water. But until when ? It doesn’t regenerate much, unfortunately. Because we deplete the groundwater on which we depend without giving them time to recharge, we divert the wadis according to our needs without worrying about the consequences for our neighbors and the Middle Atlas is a living example.

Wadis are dry, dried up by greedy and little civic activities, leaving in a state of distress, population, livestock, marine and terrestrial fauna and flora. For urbanization or even for agricultural and other purposes, wetlands are drained by rejecting 80% of wastewater into the environment without deigning to treat it. The concerns then relate to the sources of supply to be directed towards tensions that seem inevitable.

Oueds, groundwater, dams… dry, Morocco is thirsty

Recently the minister in charge of this resource, Nizar Baraka, declared that ” the high demand for water and the overexploitation of groundwater contribute to putting pressure on water resources”.

Last February, the government noting the devastating effects of the drought, released in mid-February an aid program for the agricultural sector – the leading contributor to GDP (14%) ahead of tourism and industry and the main source of jobs in rural areas – nearly one billion euros. This measure, resulting from a royal decision, should encourage us to change our mentality or at least think differently about the question of the management of our water, which is so rare and so precious, and the way it is used.

Hold ! Irrigation alone, the 10% of the land to be irrigated in Morocco, alone swallows 80% of the Kingdom’s water. Find the error!

Today, Morocco places its water hopes in the desalination of sea water, although polluting (brine), to remedy the deficit. But most construction starts are facing curious delays, we would say, like the desalination station in the economic capital “still under construction” while Casablanca is threatened with a water deficit from 2025.

This leads us to reconsider the policy of our dams which, with their current deficit (a little less than 714 million m3), threaten, according to ONEP, some 54 Moroccan cities with a lack of drinking water supply. A good number of these dams, levers of water security and of which we are proud, are falling, however, under the threat of disuse, evaporation, siltation by river sediments, lack of maintenance… and other small miseries of the vagaries of time and climate and whose negative effects are undeniably inexorable.

From this water that is lost, we will remember this sentence from Mohamed Benata, agricultural engineer, Dr. in Geography, who, requested by MoroccoLatestNews.fr, estimated that “ the politics of dams has always neglected the reforestation of watersheds in all its projects. As a result, the soil is no longer retained, resulting in widespread siltation. Also, to remedy siltation, it is less expensive (dredging and other methods, etc.) to build a dam than to clean it”.

In conclusion, we will not hide this ecological allusion from our fervent defender of the environment, which could have led us to another debate: “ Moreover, in no dam in Morocco the ecological flow exists to allow aquatic life and biodiversity in our fresh waters and their shores”.

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