Tunisia is experiencing a severe water crisis because of low rainfall and a drought for more than four years.
TUNIS, March. 30 — The water withdrawal per capita in Tunisia is less than 450 cubic meters, which is well below the absolute water scarcity threshold of 1,000 cubic meters, according to Abdessalem Saidi, the central director of the National Company of Water Exploitation and Distribution.
This makes Tunisia a “very water-scarce country,” he said, adding that the average per-capita water supply is projected to fall below 350 cubic meters by 2030.
The water shortage has been exacerbated by climate change. In a recent article on the Tunisian news website Leaders, Jamel Labidi, a former director general at the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources, and Fisheries, stated that studies predict that the average temperature in Tunisia will increase by 2.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, while precipitation will decrease by about 14 percent.
“Agriculture is by far the sector with the most water use and withdrawal… as 80 percent of Tunisia’s water resources are used for agriculture,” said Hammadi Habib, director general of the Ministry’s Office of Planning and Water Balances, in a recent Facebook post.
For decades, Tunisia has encouraged farmers to specialize in export-oriented industrial crops. Strawberries, citrus, tomatoes, and watermelons are among the most water-intensive crops.
This specialized agriculture has replaced the local population-feeding practices of the past.
Habib advocated for additional measures to limit the water supply to farms in order to assure adequate supplies of potable water for homes and businesses.
“In light of the continuation of this current strategy, many Tunisian provinces, including the capital Tunis, Sousse, Nabeul, and Sfax, will be without potable water in August,” the ministry official warned.
According to the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights, millions of Tunisians confront the threat of thirst as a result of the government’s frequent water cuts.
The Tunisian Water Observatory recently published a thirst map for the year 2022, which included 2,299 reports of water-related issues.
Radia Al-Sameen, project coordinator and researcher at the observatory, told Tunisian private TV Attesia on January 10: “This included 1,655 reports of water outages, 423 protests at problems in the water distribution service, and problems related to the deterioration of the quality of drinking water.”
According to Habib, the use of non-conventional water resources, such as desalinated water and treated water, helps save the limited conventional water resources and could play an increasingly crucial role in meeting the expanding water demand.
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