New Research Shows Human Induced Contamination in Moroccan Groundwater

By Paulo Augusto and Tobias Schmitz

6 Sep 2022 by The Water Diplomat

Two new studies have been published indicating that showing that Moroccan aquifers are being contaminated by pollution caused by human activity, such as the disposal of raw wastewater in wadis and leakage from septic tanks. Groundwater in Morocco is a primary source of drinking water due to its reliable quality and is fundamental to social and economic development in arid regions.

In the first study published in the Journal of Ecological Engineering entitled “Impacts of Anthropogenic Factors on the Groundwater Ecosystem of Fezouata in South-East of Morocco”, the researchers analysed the water of 15 wells in a hyperarid area in the country’s Southeast. The wells were selected based on their proximity to – or distance from – different pollution sources such as septic tanks, agriculture, a wastewater treatment plant, and mines.   

After comparing the water quality from wells near pollution sources such as raw wastewater disposal against wells far from pollutants, Boudellah and his team found that cleaner waters had an abundance of fauna which were to be expected in groundwater. On the other hand, biodiversity in polluted aquifers had been highly compromised. They found that the presence of pollution reduced biodiversity “drastically”. Most of the fauna found in polluted waters were species typically found above the ground, such as insect’s larvae.

The second study, now published, was led by Yassine El Yousfi of the Abdelmalek Essaadi University and focused on salt water intrusion in coastal aquifers. The team of researchers analysed water from the Ghiss-Nekkor aquifer and the Abdekarim El Khattabi dam, both in the country’s Northeast. The study was based on hydrogeochemical parameters in combinations with statistical analysis: it analysed key elements and oxides in the water that are dissolved from the surrounding rock and found a gradual degradation of the groundwater sources over time. The effects were shown to be highly specific to each area, and causes were identified as saltwater intrusion, evaporation, and pollution from human sources.    


While in most countries, a salinity level of less than 600 mg/l is considerable good and anything above 1.200 to 1.500 mg/l unacceptable, the study found that most wells had a level of salinity above 2.000mg/l. Salt water intrusion and interaction between water and subsurface rock were important causes of salinity. However, the study also found that “septic waste, water irrigation inflows, and locally seawater intrusion seem to substantially influence groundwater quality in this area.”