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Drought affecting Morocco puts water supplies at risk

  • Drought affecting Morocco puts water supplies at risk

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Morocco is enduring the worst drought in the past 40 years, a situation that could lead to drinking water shortages, informs Phys.org. Farmers usually are the most affected by recurrent droughts in the country, but the water supply in some cities could be threatened as well, the Minister of Equipment and Water, Nizar Baraka, told the parliament.

Since September there has been little precipitation, with reservoirs receiving only 11% of the water they usually would on an average year. The cities of Marrakesh and Oujda already turned to groundwater reserves last December for their water supply.

Earlier this year the government announced a package of about one billion euros to help the agricultural sector, which is a major employer in rural areas. Whereas Morocco is used to droughts, they have become more frequent as a result of climate change. Farmers’ reliance on rainfall means agricultural yields are vulnerable to drought, and this year’s exceptional dry conditions could lead to the worst harvest in decades. Irrigated cropland will also be affected if the drought continues to deplete reservoir levels, although recent rainfall is helping alleviate the situation.

The decline in water resources in Morocco is blamed on environmental factors, together with increased demand and over-exploitation of groundwater for irrigation. A 2020 report from the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis by Amal Ennabih points to irrigation water policies as one of the causes of water scarcity problems, noting irrigation consumes about 80% of the water in the country.

Minister Baraka has emphasised the need to improve water efficiency to meet the country’s water needs in the face of climate change. He said Morocco has moved from water scarcity to extreme water stress, and will lose 30% of its water resources annually by 2050.

The minister noted that water storage in dams has been declining over the past four years. The country’s 149 largest dams have a total capacity of 19 billion cubic meters, and another 115 dams are being built, with the objective of reaching 24 billion cubic meters of storage capacity. Work is also ongoing to complete several seawater desalination plants, all within the framework of the National Priority Programme to Supply Drinking Water and Irrigation 2020-2027. In response to the current drought, the government is accelerating works to ensure the water supply.

On the occasion of the 9th World Water Forum held in Dakar last week, a statement from the Ministry of Equipment and Water highlights that Morocco is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. The availability of water is now about 606 cubic metres per person per year and is expected to drop to 560 cubic metres in 2030. The United Nations considers that water scarcity occurs when availability is below 1,000 cubic metres per person per year, and below 500 cubic metres, the population faces “absolute scarcity”. According to the ministry, the country’s adaptation measures relate to water demand management, including improving the performance of supply networks and water use efficiency.

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