Morocco Drought Deepens; Agriculture Hard-hit

Investment In Desal And Grain Subsidies

1 Mar 2022 by The Water Diplomat
RABAT, Morocco

The government of Morocco has suspended the watering of public spaces and roads and has launched a campaign to raise public awareness of water scarcity issues. Water rationing measures have been implemented and plans to deliver water by truck to remote areas are taking effect.

The country is experiencing the worst drought in 30 years and it is expected to have a negative impact on the economy which is heavily reliant on agriculture and tourism.

Food prices have risen sharply and in response, the Moroccan government has begun to subsidise grain imports, allocating $400 Million USD in an attempt to avoid a food scarcity crisis.

Dams are at an average level of 33%, with some as low as 6%. This has brought more pressure on underground water resources through the greater use of increasingly deep both legal and illegal borewells.

The National Office for Electricity and Drinking Water (ONEE) has also announced a $500 Million USD investment for sanitation and drinking water to be implemented through 2022.

Part of this budget will be used to increase the production of drinking water from 6 million cubic meters per day to 7.35 million. The other part will be used on wastewater treatment. Fourteen additional wastewater treatment plants are planned (adding to the currently existing 119) to prevent polluted water from contaminating natural water resources.

The Moroccan government is considering the use of treated wastewater for agriculture, watering green spaces and for industrial use.

The whole region has been experiencing more frequent and longer droughts. Experts suggest continuation of this pattern, attributing it to the effect of global warming in the world’s climate patterns. One of the ways the Moroccan government is dealing with this new reality is by investing in desalination plants.

In Casablanca, a new plant is being built which, when operational, in 2027, will be the world’s largest producing 300 million cubic metres of water per year. Other desalination plants in Laayoune, Agadir, Safi or Dakhla are already working or about to start.

The country’s investment in desalination plants is estimated to be about $12.6 Billion USD by the time the programme is complete in 2027.

The Centre of Mediterranean Integration has assessed the difficulties on Morocco’s horizon with respect to water scarcity. The report concludes that, as a result of climate change, the country can expect more frequent and more severe droughts in the future and this is a big obstacle to the country’s sustained development.

The study further concluded that Morocco needs to redouble efforts when it comes to efficient water management and sustainable agriculture.

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