• Tunis

  • Wednesday, December 6, 2023 at 9:23 AM
    Last Update : Wednesday, December 6, 2023 at 9:23 AM

Wasted Water Adds to Tunisia’s Water Scarcity Crisis

(AWP) - Tunisians are fuming these days each time they return from work and want to take a bath, due to disruptions in water supply after a government decision to extend the quota system in the distribution of water until further notice.

The decision was taken due to an acute drought that has been ongoing for five years, and Tunisians say that the lives of many have been affected by the continuous shortages.

Tunisia is one of the countries most influenced by climate change. Lack of rain and a decrease in dam water stores prompted the government to take measures to rationalize the consumption of water.

Among these measures, under the purview of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, water supply is cut off over set periods of time, and its use in farming has been banned since March.

The decision was extended at the end of September, to be continued indefinitely.

The Ministry has also prohibited the use of drinking water in car washes, irrigation of green spaces, and cleaning of streets and public places.

Ahmed Souly, Director- General of the National Company for Water Exploitation and Distribution (SONEDE), said water supply is cut off at certain times, mostly during the night, as consumption rates are down, and this way the stock may be preserved so that citizens may use water in the morning.
“We do not have enough water to use 24 hours a day. We pick the time when the consumption is low,” he added.

Although it possesses 40 dams, Tunisia suffers from water scarcity, as rain subsides and temperatures reach record highs.

Tunisia’s National Institute of Meteorology said that the total amount of rains in September represented only 3.5% compared to the usual rate during this period of the year, saying that this September was “the driest since 1970”.

Hussein Rehili, an expert on water resources, described the quota system in water distribution as an “indication of the failure of public policies,” adding that the insistence on repeating those ‘traditional’ ways would not lead to different results.

“The major problem has to do with the dilapidated infrastructure of the water extension canals and the huge waste of water,” said Rehili, noting that the wasted water rate rose from 25% in 2010 to 34% in 2022.

He pointed out that the increase in the wasted irrigation water in rural areas was up to 50%.

The drought has also negatively affected agricultural crops. The yield of grains declined by 60% in 2023, while the farmland area of many water-intensive crops, including tomatoes, has decreased, after the Ministry of Agriculture decision to cut irrigation.

Many farmers have resorted to digging water wells due to the lack of rain water and restrictions on crop irrigation.

Adel Antit, a member of the Tomatoes Committee at the Agriculture and Fisheries Union, called for a halt to the random digging of wells.
“After we have depleted the water wealth, what will we leave for the next generation?” Antit asked.

A total of 80% of the water in Tunisia was devoted to irrigation. The government seeks to cut this to 70%, and to dedicate the remaining to drinking water and to the industrial and tourism sectors.

The North African country’s Ministry of Agriculture has launched a promotional campaign to raise awareness of the hazards of water scarcity. It is currently pondering investment in water desalination projects.