The drought affects not only the agricultural sector but also the sustainability of drinking water supplies

Morocco's economy on drought alert

Las autoridades marroquíes han endurecido las medidas para frenar el desabastecimiento de agua - PHOTO/FILE
Moroccan authorities have toughened measures to curb water shortages (PHOTO/FILE)

Minister of State for Supply and Water Nizar Baraka told the Chamber of Councillors that water desalination remains a priority to manage structural water shortages caused by the effects of global warming.

  1. Desalination
  2. Renewable energy
  3. Water highways

Morocco ranks 22nd in the national water stress ranking of the World Resources Institute (WRI). Morocco's drought, now in its sixth year, poses a real threat to the country's economy, which relies heavily on the agricultural sector. 

PHOTO/REUTERS -  Tres mujeres caminan con su burro llevando recipientes de plástico con agua a sus casas a las afueras de Azrou, en Marruecos
Three women walk with their donkey carrying plastic containers of water to their homes on the outskirts of Azrou, Morocco (PHOTO/REUTERS)

Climate and development expert Mohamed Benabbu told Rue20 that the current situation calls for "social solidarity and containment measures" The lack of rainfall affects feed prices, which in turn affects the agricultural sector as a whole, the expert explained. Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch noted that "in some areas there is no water supply for agriculture". According to the World Bank, the agricultural sector is the largest consumer of water, accounting for 14 per cent of Morocco's gross domestic product (GDP) and about 88 per cent of total demand. 

Baraka also described Morocco's water situation as "very difficult" in a recent speech to the House of Representatives. According to Baraka, the volume collected in the country's various reservoirs in September and December does not exceed 500 million cubic metres, compared to the 1.5 billion cubic metres recorded in the same period last year. 

Interestingly, the capacity of Morocco's dams increased to 23.4% compared to 31% last year. It is surprising that it requires a massive mobilisation of the government and the people. 

PHOTO/ARCHIVO - Imagen de embalse en Marruecos
Image of a reservoir in Morocco (PHOTO/FILE)


Baraka pointed out that 50% of drinking water supply will come from desalination by 2030, recalling that the government has initiated plans to build more desalination plants to reach 1.4 billion cubic metres of production. In this regard, the minister mentioned the seawater desalination plant project in Agadir, the first phase of which started in 2022 and will be able to produce 400,000 cubic metres of fresh water per day. 

PHOTO/ABENGOA - Planta desaladora
Desalination plant (PHOTO/ABENGOA)

The minister also mentioned that 560 million cubic metres of water will be used for desalination, 500 million cubic metres of water will be used for agriculture and the remaining water will be used to supply drinking water to the population. Morocco is going through a critical period due to climate change and six years of drought. 

According to the Minister of Development and Water Resources, Nizar Baraka, rainfall has decreased by 67% in the last three months and the supply of water to reservoirs has been reduced by 66%. 

These data have led governments to take preventive measures, in the form of restrictions, to deal with the water crisis. The minister also mentioned that the objective of the programme is to improve access to drinking water in coastal cities to ensure equitable distribution of water resources throughout the country and to meet irrigation needs. 

The water-energy-food-ecosystem nexus is fundamental to this type of project as it maximises the integration and use of renewable energy sources, the minister added. Furthermore, the minister noted that Morocco is keen to diversify its water supply for agriculture by linking the use of renewable energy sources to water desalination. 

REUTERS/YOUSSEF BOUDLAL - Mercado de verduras en las afueras de Casablanca
Vegetable market on the outskirts of Casablanca (REUTERS/YOUSSEF BOUDLAL)

Renewable energy

The plant will be powered by wind energy and most of its output will be used for irrigation. The seawater desalination plant in Dakhla is currently under construction and will run on wind power mainly for irrigation, the minister said. 

Nine additional desalination projects, including agricultural desalination projects, are expected to be completed and operational by 2027. Baraka emphasised the important role of international organisations in providing financial and technical support for capacity building. 

AFP/FADEL SENNA - Una vista aérea de los espejos solares de la planta de energía solar concentrada Noor 1, próxima a la ciudad de Ouarzazate
An aerial view of the solar mirrors at the Noor 1 concentrated solar power plant near the city of Ouarzazate (AFP/FADEL SENNA)

Water highways

Faced with the needs of climate change, the Kingdom of Morocco linked two of the country's most important rivers to supply water to Rabat and Casablanca. The road supplies water to the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah and El Massira dams.

Water is one of the few resources of which the continent faces a shortage. It is true that the "Water Highway" project resonated with countries all over the world, especially those on the African continent. Morocco has an advantage over all its neighbours in road construction.  

PHOTO/AFP - Presa de Al-Massira en el pueblo de Ouled Essi Masseoud
Al-Massira dam in the village of Ouled Essi Masseoud (PHOTO/AFP)

Currently, the construction of "water highways" is only the tip of the iceberg. An iceberg of dozens of desalination plants operating at full capacity, efficient use of water and wind energy, and technological breakthroughs in the use and development of green hydrogen. It is a testament to the effectiveness of the Moroccan government that it continues to seek new solutions to water problems. In addition to the proposal, one of Rabat's future projects is the reuse of agricultural wastewater.