Water scarcity threatens survival in Morocco as citizens face worst drought in 40 years

morocco - climateaction

Water scarcity threatens survival in Morocco as citizens face worst drought in 40 years

Morocco is currently facing its worst drought since the start of the 1980s (about 40 years) and the duo of climate change and bad resource management could further plunge the country into a drinking water crisis due to shortages, according to experts.

Moroccans have access to just about 600 cubic metres of water per person each year, far below the 2,600 cubic metres they enjoyed in the 1960s, and the country has had little rain since September, with its reservoirs having received just 11% of what they would in an average year, according to authorities.

The United Nations’ defines water scarcity as a situation when water supplies drop below 1,000 cubic metres per person annually. It further goes to say that, in a situation when supplies are 500 cubic metres, it is considered absolute scarcity.

The decline in water supplies being experienced in Morocco is a result of a combination of factors: environmental factors which include climate change, high demand for water, and over-exploitation of groundwater for farming.

In fact, reports suggest that Morocco’s water scarcity is deeply linked to the way water is used for irrigation, which consumes around 80% of the country’s water annually.

While the burden of the incessant drought was usually felt by farmers in the past, the case doesn’t seem to be the case anymore as water supplies to cities are currently under threat.

According to Abdelaziz Zerouali, the water ministry’s head of research and planning, it’s a worrying sign that needs to be addressed by putting measures to mitigate the risks.

Despite the gloomy situation, communities and governments are making moves to salvage the situation.

In December, Marrakesh and Oujda which are two major cities in the country started tapping into groundwater reserves to ensure adequate supplies.

Also, in February, the Moroccan government released a package of around one billion euros in aid to the troubled agricultural sector, the top employer in the Moroccan countryside that also makes up about 14% of the country’s GDP.

There are hopes that desalination plants can help make up the water deficit, although efforts to build 15 more dams and more desalination facilities have been threatened by delays. An example is a plant that has been under construction since 2020 near Casablanca, Morocco’s commercial capital, which is at risk of facing severe water shortages by 2025.

Another example is a desalination plant meant to serve the northeastern resort town of Saidia has also yet to come online, causing water shortages.

There appears to be some form of relief as a desalination plant was activated recently, supplying 70% of the needs of the Atlantic coastal city of Agadir, a major farming area.

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