To overcome the repercussions of the drought, Tangier is preparing to build the largest seawater desalination plant in northern Morocco

Tangier ready for the construction of the largest desalination plant in the north of Morocco

Tánger, Marruecos – PHOTO/AFP/Manuel Cohen vía AFP
Tangier, Morocco - PHOTO/AFP/Manuel Cohen via AFP

Morocco is facing considerable water shortages, due to drought caused by climate change, pushing the North African country to accelerate the pace of seeking innovative solutions by prioritising drinking water.

  1. The large desalination plant of Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima located in Huara
  2. Desalination plants: strengths of Morocco's drought plan
  3. Other methods of obtaining non-conventional water
  4. How water is managed in Morocco
  5. Updated figures on the water situation in Morocco

The Tangier desalination plant planned in the Huara area represents an efficient solution to the water supply problem in the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region, which will benefit not only the population of Tangier in terms of drinking water, but is likely to reach as far as Larache; contributing to meet the need for irrigation water as well. 

The competent authorities, in cooperation with domain experts and engineers, began preparations for the launch of this seawater desalination plant, under the direct supervision of the new Wali Younes Tazi.

It should be noted that, after successive dry years and faced with major problems of drinking water supply and irrigation, Morocco is committed to the construction of seawater desalination plants in several coastal cities in order to meet the growing demand for water in its various uses.

Puerto de Tánger Med, Marruecos - PHOTO/ATALAYAR
Port of Tangier Med, Morocco - PHOTO/ATALAYAR

The large desalination plant of Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima located in Huara

Within the framework of Morocco's National Urban Water Supply Programme, the launch of the Tangier desalination plant project is a strategic step reflecting Morocco's vigorous search for non-conventional water resources throughout the country.

With a view to tackling the country's water scarcity problem and meeting the water needs of the population, the Tangier desalination plant will undoubtedly play a vital role in supplying drinking water to the capital of the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region, as well as to the surrounding areas.

This ambitious and challenging project, which will see the light of day in two to four years, will contribute to improving the sustainability of the region's water supply; as well as providing drinking water to the city of Asilah and possibly Larache.

The site chosen for the Tangier desalination plant has the advantage of being in close proximity to a series of drinking water pipelines from the 9 April and Dhar Khrofa dams where Tangier's drinking water supply began.

Vista aérea de la costa de Tánger, Marruecos - PHOTO/ATALAYAR
Aerial view of the coast of Tangier, Morocco - PHOTO/ATALAYAR

Once the preliminary studies for the new project have been completed, the launching of the initiative requires a huge financial and technical potential given its value for the city and the region as a whole. 

It should be noted that the project will be implemented through the signing of partnership agreements between the Wilaya of Tangier, the National Water Office, the Agency for the Development of the Northern Territories, the Locus Basin Agency and the Ministry of Equipment.

The new plant, which is part of the National Drinking Water Supply and Irrigation Programme 2020-2027, is expected to pump 30 to 80 million cubic metres of drinking water. It is also expected to benefit farmers in the Locus area of Larache.

While the total drinking water distributed to the city of Tangier annually amounts to more than 28 million cubic metres from the suburban dams, the new plant will respond to water needs in case of continued years of drought and low dam filling due to low rainfall.


Desalination plants: strengths of Morocco's drought plan

Despite dwindling water reserves in dams, Morocco is still able to meet drinking water needs thanks to the desalination of seawater, particularly in Agadir, Al Hoceima, Safi and El Jadida, and the reinforcement of groundwater supplies. 

In 2021, Morocco had 12 seawater desalination plants with a production capacity of 145 Mm3/year, rising to 15 in 2023 with a production capacity of 192 Mm3/year. 

In its future vision of 2030, Morocco aims to have 16 more desalination plants, five of them under expansion, with a total production capacity of 1.46 billion m3/year. The aim is to remedy water-related problems and provide drinking water to the population.

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

The existing plants are those of Al Hoceima, Agadir (first phase), AKhfennir, Tarfaya, Sidi Elghazi, Boujdour, El Mhiriz, Laayoune, Jorf Lasfar and Safi, which are in the process of being extended. 

The plants under construction are those at Sidi Ifni and Dakhla. Moreover, other plants are planned in the eastern region: the desalination plant in Tangiers, Guelmim, Agadir (second phase), Tiznit, Essaouira and Casablanca (first and second phase).

Of the non-conventional water sources, seawater desalination plants represent a solution to water scarcity in addition to the techniques of reusing treated wastewater and artificially recharging groundwater.

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

Other methods of obtaining non-conventional water

Morocco is accelerating projects for the reuse of treated wastewater to reach 100 Mm3/year for the irrigation of green areas and golf courses by the end of 2027. 

There are already three projects for the reuse of 8 Mm3/year of treated wastewater for industrial use. It should be noted that, by the end of 2022, the reused volume of treated water was 32 Mm3/year.

In parallel, artificial recharge of aquifers is another method adopted by Morocco to obtain non-conventional water. In 2023, it launched artificial recharge projects for water tables in Er-Rachidia and Zagora.

In 2024, Morocco launched the artificial recharge project for water tables in Midelt, Zagora and Er-Rachidia; while it plans, in the period 2025-2028, to carry out 22 projects for artificial recharge thresholds for water tables in the provinces of Zagora, Er-Rachidia, Tinghir and Figuig.

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

How water is managed in Morocco

Water management in Morocco is summarised in the National Programme for Drinking Water Supply and Irrigation 2020-2027, which aims, on the one hand, to develop supply and manage the demand, economy and use of water.

On the other hand, the programme seeks to strengthen drinking water supply in rural areas, reuse of treated wastewater. 

The main objectives of water management in Morocco are: to improve the efficiency of drinking water supply networks (canals and full service pipelines) from 77% today to 78% in 2027 and 80% in 2030, and to achieve a water efficiency programme for all water uses.

Water policy in Morocco aims to put the spotlight on every drop of Morocco's valuable water resources, as well as to deploy efforts in search of creative solutions and adopt efficient approaches in the management of this vital commodity. 

Awareness raising and communication on water economics and the state of water resources and water economics is one of the emerging measures of water management policy in the country.

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

Updated figures on the water situation in Morocco

Morocco has 153 large dams with a total capacity of 20 MMm3 and 141 medium and small dams that complement the picture of water infrastructure in terms of dams.  

The available reserves as of 30 January are 3.73 MM m3. In the first two months of 2024 alone, dams have lost 8.6 points to a filling level of 23.2%. 

Given the drop in rainfall, the filling rate of dams in Loukkos is at 38.8%, Moulouya at 24%, Sebou at 35.6%, Bouregreg Chaouia at 21%, Oum Rbia at 4.8%, Tensift at 48.7%, Sus Massa at 11.4%, Draa Oued Nun at 20.9%, and Guir Ziz Rheris at 26.6%.

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