The North African country is planning several initiatives to improve national water capacity

Megaprojects, dams and innovative techniques are Morocco's new weapons in the face of a difficult water situation

PHOTO/MAP - La presa de Youssef Ben Tachfin en el uadi de Massa, en la provincia de Tiznit, inaugurada en 1972
photo_camera PHOTO/MAP - The Youssef Ben Tachfin dam in the wadi of Massa, in the province of Tiznit, inaugurated in 1972

Due to the drought and low rainfall experienced by the country in recent years, Morocco plans to launch a range of short- and medium-term projects to remedy the problem. Faced with a difficult water situation, the Moroccan government has decided to expand dams and build new ones, in addition to launching large-scale seawater desalination projects and to generalise innovative techniques in the agricultural sector. 

During the presentation of its 2024 budget proposal, the Minister of Equipment and Water, Nizar Baraka, placed particular emphasis on the major projects planned in the various sectors related to water. In this regard, Baraka underlined the difficult water situation in the country, which continues to deteriorate due to the drop in rainfall, which is important for this period of the year. 

According to the Ministry of Water, the rainfall recorded in Morocco between 1 September 2022 and 31 August 2023 has increased to 134.05 millilitres compared to 102.05 millilitres during the previous season, reflecting an improvement of 31.4%. However, the national deficit of -29.2% persists compared to a normal year with rainfall reaching 188.4 millilitres. 

PHOTO/ATALAYAR/GUILLERMO LÓPEZ - Nizar Baraka, ministro de Equipamiento y Agua de Marruecos
PHOTO/ATALAYAR/GUILLERMO LÓPEZ - Nizar Baraka, Minister of Equipment and Water of Morocco

Dams

Up to 7 November 2023, compared with a normal year, a fall in reserves has been observed at the level of the country's main basins.  The stock of dams at national level, which increased in the current hydrological year, i.e. since 1 September 2023, to 4.33 billion m³ (26.84% of its reservoir), fell again on 7 November 2023 to almost 3.98 billion m³, i.e. 24.7% of its reservoir, which is almost the same level as last year. 

Below is the current situation of the dams in Morocco according to the latest updated data in descending order. 

Sebou Dam: with 2.14 billion m³ representing 38.6% of its reservoir, this basin covers almost the entire Gharb-Chrada-Beni Hssen region and the areas of Fez and Boulmane. 

Loukkos Dam: with 621.5 million m³ representing a reservoir rate of 36.1%, it covers the provinces of Tangier, Tetouan, Larache, Chaouen, Al Hoceima, Kenitra, Sidi Kacem and Taza. 

Oum Errabia Dam: with 346.3 million m³ representing an impoundment rate of 7%, it covers the areas of Beni Mellal, Juribga, Azilal, ElYadida, Safi and part of Jenifra and Settat. 

Bouregreg-Chaouia Dam: with 288.4 million m³ representing 26.6% of its reservoir, it covers the Casablanca-Settat region, Rabat Kenitra and part of Beni Mellal Jenifra. 

Tensift Dam: with 85.2 million m³ representing 37.5% of the reservoir, it covers the whole of the prefecture of Marrakech, the provinces of Al-Haouz, Chichaoua and Essaouira. 

Sus-Masa Dam: with 83.4 million m³ representing 11.4% of its reservoir, it meets the water needs of Sus, Masa, and the coastal basins of northern Tamri-Tamghart, as well as the Tiznit plain.

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

Faced with this difficult water reality, the Kingdom of Morocco has taken several measures, as well as outlined strategies to achieve good governance of this vital sector and ensure efficient management of the country's water resources. In this context, it has signed contracts and launched projects to ensure the conservation of aquifers and the production of drinking water. 

According to the Minister of Water, Morocco's water deficit has not prevented it from meeting the national population's need for drinking water. This is thanks to the projects launched by the state in this area, which are summarised in the seawater desalination plants and the use of aquifers. 

In terms of seawater desalination, the Agadir station has a capacity of 34 million m³/year of drinking water, while the Al Hoceima and Safi stations, with a capacity of 6 million m³/year, are already being progressively exploited as of September 2023.  

The aquifers or groundwater have been used for irrigation, in particular the fields of Sus, Errachidia, Tadla, Berrechid and Al-Haouz.  However, overuse has caused the water level to drop, especially in Tadla with -5m, Beni Amir with -4m, Sus with -4m and Chtouka with -1.5m. 

In this regard, the Ministry has already signed three participatory water management contracts, namely: Al-Haouz-Mejjat, Rmel and Meski-Boudnib, has prepared five water contracts to be signed such as the Fayja, Trifa, Berrechid, Almenarse, Drader contract. While eleven other contracts are under preparation, which aim to regularise the use of groundwater in order to achieve the good management of this water wealth.

PHOTO/SOMAGECGROUPE - Plano del proyecto de unión mediante cnales denominados "las autopistas del agua" de los ríos Sebou y Bourgreg
PHOTO/SOMAGECGROUPE - Plan of the project to link the Sebou and Bourgreg rivers by means of "water highways"

In terms of dams and improving the country's water storage capacity, a budget of more than 40 million euros will be allocated to the construction of the M'dez Sefrou and Ghiss dams in Al Hoceima and Koudiat El Berna in Sidi Kacem, on the one hand, and the follow-up to the construction of 16 other large dams, on the other. Moreover, the start of the construction of the Boukhmis dam in Jemisset with a water production capacity of 650 million m³ and the call for tenders for its construction has already been launched. 

The same budget envelope also includes the launching of the call for tenders for the construction of the Sidi Mansour dam in Tetouan, Sidi Ghighaya in Al-Haouz and Toughza in Azilal. The latter two dams will be built by the High Atlas Development Agency as part of the development of the provinces affected by the Al-Haouz earthquake.

AFP/FETHI BELAID  - Un técnico en una planta de tratamiento de aguas residuales
AFP/FETHI BELAID - A technician at a sewage treatment plant

It should be noted that between October 2021 and October 2023, 18 large dams were under construction in several basins and are scheduled for completion between 2023 and 2029. These are the following dams:  

Fask Guelmim Dam, with a production capacity of 79 million m³. Its construction requires an investment of 130 million euros. The work is 95.1% complete and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2023. 

The M'dez Sefrou dam, with a production capacity of 700 million m³, requires a budget of 160 million euros.  It is 82% completed and is scheduled for completion in 2024. 

Raising of the Mohammed VI dam at Taurirt to reach a production capacity of 980 million cubic metres, with a budget of 140 million euros. It is 25% complete and is scheduled for completion in 2026. 

The Kheng Grou dam in Figuig with a production capacity of 1 million m³ requires a budget of 110 million euros and is scheduled for completion in 2027. 

Ratba Dam in Taunat with a production capacity of 1 million m³ and its realisation requires a budget of almost 400 billion euros. It is expected to be completed in 2029, with a progress rate of only 7%.

Morocco will also be endowed with an additional storage capacity estimated at 5.7 billion cubic metres, with a budget surplus of 2.9 billion euros.  

This includes two dams whose production capacity exceeds 1 billion m³, two dams whose production capacity varies between 200 and 600 million m³ and 10 dams whose production capacity will be less than 200 million m³. 

The Ministry of Water also plans to launch other small and medium-sized dam projects by 2024. Baraka plans to launch tenders for the construction of two medium-sized dams with a budget of 69.2 million euros, such as the Tassa-Ouirgane dam in the province of Al-Haouz and the Ain Kesb dam in the province of Benslimane, in addition to the Sidi Yaacoub dam in Tiznit, Mssalit dam in Tata and Lemdad dam in Tarudant. 

As part of investments in the water sector, Morocco is continuing with small dam projects and the continuation of work on the Foum Zguid dam in Tata ('6.3 million) and the launching of tenders for 10 small dams ('41.5 million). 

Five small dams are already under construction, the construction of which requires a budget of 23.315 million euros. 

Along the same lines of dam development and expansion, the Ministry of Equipment and Water plans to complete next year the project to connect the Sebou basin to the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah dam (Bouregreg basin) and the Al-Massira dam (Oum Errabia basin), with a flow rate of 30 m³/s. The project will be completed in the coming year. The project to connect the Oued al-Makhazin dam to the Grand Tangier hydraulic system will also be carried out in this way.

PHOTO/FILE - Presa de agua en Marruecos
PHOTO/FILE - Water dam in Morocco

Seawater desalination stations

In the field of seawater desalination, six projects are currently underway, which will enable the Ministry to reinforce the country's drinking water supply and avoid possible water shortages in certain regions of the country. The stations are as follows in descending order: 

Jorf Lasfar station: with a production capacity of 52 million m³/year of which 45 million m³/year is drinking water. 

Safi station: more than 50 million m³/year of which 20 million m³/year are for industry and 30 milion m³/year are drinking water. 

Dakhla station: 37 million m³/year of drinking and irrigation water. 

Sidi Ifni station: 3.15 million m³/year of drinking water 

Amgriou station: 0.16 million m³/year of drinking and irrigation water. 

Guerguerat station: 0.16 million m³/year of drinking water. 

So far, a total of 14 stations have already been installed with a capacity of 192 million m³/year, while the 16 other stations are under study and thanks to them the water production capacity will increase to 1.5 billion m³/year. 

The Ministry revealed that the desalination station of Jorf Lasfar is currently under construction, that its production capacity increases to 30 million m³/year and that it will be exploited from the end of this year 2023 to supply the city of El Jadida with drinking water. The construction of the Casablanca station is due to begin in early 2024, according to the Ministry

PHOTO/FILE - Presa de agua en Marruecos
AFP/FADEL SENNA - Abdelmoumen Dam, some 60 kilometres from the coastal city of Agadir in Morocco

Innovative techniques

Morocco has adopted a national plan to optimise the use of water resources and increase agricultural productivity. It should be recalled here that the National Irrigation Water Saving Plan has been supported by the World Bank since 2010. 

In search of the most efficient methods of supplying water and nutrients to crops, drip irrigation has represented for Morocco one of the best irrigation techniques that have changed local agricultural practices. 

Drip irrigation is the uniform way in any topographical and soil conditions that serves farmers not only to have a high yield and better quality, but also helps them to save energy; because it works at low pressures. It is a technique that guarantees a higher stability and the lowest level of risks. 

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

Research and innovation are at the heart of the concerns of operators in the agricultural sector in Morocco. Thus, in the context of climate change and changes in water management, Morocco is developing sustainable irrigation systems to boost its agriculture and optimise water use in order to increase the productivity of irrigated crops. 

Direct seeding is the new weapon of farmers in Morocco against drought. By adopting this method, farmers ensure a significant reduction in the costs linked to field preparation, while preserving soil quality. 

The no-tillage or direct seeding system proposes minimal or no soil disturbance. It is content with conventional sowing, by removing the topsoil before sowing to aerate the soil, incorporate manure and fertilisers. Direct seeding tries to avoid ploughing the soil in order to maintain greater protection and not lose its consistency and qualities

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