Drought tightens its grip on Morocco
Mohamed gave up farming because of the successive droughts that hit his previously fertile but isolated village in Morocco and because he simply couldn’t take it anymore.
“Seeing villagers rush to public fountains in the morning or to a neighbor to draw water makes you want to cry,” says this man in his sixties.
“The shortage of water is making us suffer,” he told AFP in the village of Ouled Essi Masseoud, about 140 kilometers (87 miles) from the country’s economic capital, Casablanca.
But it’s not just her village that is suffering – the whole North African country has been affected.
No longer having access to running drinking water, the villagers of Ouled Essi Masseoud depend solely on the sporadic supply from public fountains and private wells.
“The fountains only work one or two days a week, the wells are starting to dry up and the nearby river is drying up more and more,” says Mohamed Sbai as he fetches water from neighbours.
The situation is critical, given the position of the village in the agricultural province of Settat, near the Oum Errabia river and the Al Massira dam, the second largest in Morocco.
Its reservoir supplies drinking water to several towns, including the three million inhabitants of Casablanca. But the latest official figures show it is now filling up at a rate of just 5%.
The Al Massira reservoir has been reduced to little more than a pond bordered by miles of cracked earth.
Nationally, dams are filling at a rate of just 27%, precipitated by the country’s worst drought in at least four decades.
With 600 cubic meters (21,000 cubic feet) of water per year per capita, Morocco is already well below the water scarcity threshold of 1,700 cubic meters per capita per year, according to the World Health Organization. health.
In the 1960s, water availability was four times higher – at 2,600 cubic meters.
A July World Bank report on Morocco’s economy said the dwindling availability of renewable water resources was putting the country in a situation of “structural water stress”.
The authorities have now introduced water rationing.
The Interior Ministry has ordered local authorities to restrict supplies where needed and bans the use of potable water to irrigate green spaces and golf courses.
Illegal removals from wells, springs or waterways were also prohibited.
In the longer term, the government plans to build 20 seawater desalination plants by 2030, which should cover a large part of the country’s needs.
“We are in crisis management rather than anticipatory risk management,” water resources expert Mohamed Jalil told AFP.
He added that it was “difficult to effectively monitor the measures taken by the authorities”.
Agronomist Mohamed Srairi said Morocco’s Achilles’ heel was its agricultural policy “which favors water-consuming fruit trees and industrial agriculture”.
He said this agriculture relies on drip irrigation which, although it can save water, paradoxically leads to increased consumption as previously arid areas become cultivable.
The World Bank report notes that the areas cultivated under drip irrigation in Morocco have more than tripled.
He said that “modern irrigation technologies may have changed cropping decisions in ways that increase rather than decrease the total amount of water consumed by the agricultural sector.”
More than 80 percent of Morocco’s water supply is allocated to agriculture, a key economic sector that accounts for 14 percent of gross domestic product.
#photoMohamed, in his 90s, stood on an area of parched land not far from the Al Massira dam.
“We don’t plow the land anymore because there is no water,” he said, but added that he had to “accept adversity anyway because we don’t have the choice”.
The younger generations of the village appear darker.
Soufiane, a 14-year-old shepherd boy, told AFP: “We are living in a precarious state with this drought.
“I think it will get even worse in the future.”