According to the official data of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources regarding how to exploit the aquifers, the rate of exploitation in southern Tunisia is very high, reaching 155 percent in the Kebili governorate, 84 percent in Tozeur, and 76 percent in Gafsa.
In addition, the number of deep wells in the region exceeded 10,000, hundreds of which are random and unlicensed.
Among the most recent international studies issued in September 2020 is the report of the Organization’s Economic Committee United nations Of Europe, through which Tunisia, Algeria and Libya urged the need to take urgent measures to stop the damage to the common underground water reservoir in the border desert of the three countries.
The committee stated that “broad cooperation is the only way to reduce the deterioration of the largest groundwater system in the Maghreb and North Africa.” Africa“.
Abdel Salam Gellala, an expert in environment and water affairs and director of the Desert and Coast Observatory, described the shared water reservoir as a “real sea of water”, calling on Tunisia, Algeria and Libya to commit to stopping and maintaining indiscriminate and excessive exploitation, especially since more than 5 million people live thanks to groundwater. Borderline.
The common water reservoir extends over an area of one million square kilometers, equivalent to 6 times the area of Tunisia, and contains 60 thousand billion cubic meters of water, and it is divided into two layers: a first water layer with a depth of between 100 and 400 meters, and a very deep second water layer for about 3 Kilometers.
The reservoir water is distributed to 80 percent in Algerian soil, and 13 percent in LibyaWhile there is only 7% of them in Tunisian soil.
In a statement to “Sky News Arabia”, Qallalah warned that “the intensive, unorganized and sustainable exploitation of the aquifer will affect the quality of the water and increase its salinity percentage, and it even faces the risk of depletion of its water, which is characterized by being less renewable, because the quantities of water that are added To the underground balance per year of rain that does not exceed one billion cubic meters, in return for exploitation that exceeds 3 billion.
Over the years, the exploitation of the reservoir’s water doubled by doubling the number of people and farmers, reaching 60 million cubic meters in 1950, and in recent years it exceeded 3 billion cubic meters.
Qallalah warned that “if the three countries have succeeded to date in exploiting the shared water resource without causing problems or crises, then tension between them may escalate in the coming years and the result may be dire,” as he put it, especially with “increasing intensity.” Climatic changes In the world, its impact has been further coordinated on water. “
“The three countries should rationalize the use of water by adopting the results of several research carried out by the Desert and Coast Observatory on the specificity of the soil in those areas, the quality of appropriate crops and irrigation methods, while continuing to work on the mechanism of consultation that they signed.” Tunisia And Algeria and Libya in 2008 on disposing of the northern desert reservoir system, known as “SAS”, and it is a cooperation agreement whereby each country provides all information and data about the reservoir in its territory every two years, with solutions that can be prepared to prepare a program for the sustainable exploitation of shared resources.
The water expert stated that “all the experts are in The environment They warn repeatedly that the world will witness several conflicts over water resources, just as they have believed for decades that the next world war will inevitably be over water.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources in Tunisia has been working for years to prepare studies to discuss new technologies for more preservation of surface water for dams and mountain lakes, and to find new sources of water.
The results of a study prepared by the Ministry on the future of water in 2030 showed the need to control this resource, rationalize its exploitation, resort to unconventional resources such as desalination of sea water and wastewater treatment, and find funds for such very costly projects.
He mentions that about a decade ago, he alerted The World Bank In a 2009 report, Tunisia is out of danger Drought And the possibility of entering the country into a crisis of severe water poverty during the next five years.
The World Bank indicated that the crisis is due to the country’s reliance on a large number of surface water from rivers and rain to provide three quarters of its water needs, which are concentrated in limited areas in the north and west of the country.
The lack of water resources in the last decade in the cities of southern Tunisia, which are considered arid regions, represented a developmental obstacle and a real social problem.
Social and development crises
In a statement to “Sky News Arabia”, the expert engineer in water and the environment, Muhammad bin Hussein, predicted the outbreak of social and development crises in Tunisia caused by water scarcity, especially in the oases of Kebili and Tozeur, areas that have witnessed massive expansion in recent years that exceeded 20 thousand hectares, which doubled the consumption of Aquifers from 232 million cubic meters to 522 million per year.
Bin Hussein called for the need to adopt modern methods in PlowingTo reduce the quantities of water used for irrigation and to rationalize its disposal.
And frequent interruptions in the supply of drinking water in all parts of the country, especially in the summer, which sparked repeated protests, and Tunisians in rural areas have suffered for decades from thirst, drought and water pollution.
The project coordinator at the Tunisian Water Observatory, Alaa Marzouki, stated that “in August 2020, the largest number of popular protests against water cuts was recorded, coinciding with a significant rise in temperatures and a second wave of the emerging corona virus.”
Al-Marzouki explained the causes of the social water crisis in Tunisia through several factors, most notably the weakness of the budget allocated for the extension and maintenance of water distribution networks, the government’s failure to include the crisis in its top priority, and neglecting to work on equitable distribution of water to all regions.
The civil society activist suggested adopting modern technologies to monitor water tanks and maintain networks to avoid water loss, monitor urgent plans to avoid distribution disturbances, as well as develop legal legislation to guarantee the constitutional right to water, and expedite reviewing the water magazine in Parliament, recalling Article 44 of The Tunisian Constitution Which guarantees the citizen’s right to have access to water as a duty of the state.