Over-abstraction of groundwater

 

Photo credit: CGIAR

 A well in Tunisia.

Groundwater over-abstraction in the MENA region: 5 problems and some solutions

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In the Haouaria Plain of Northern Tunisia, a too familiar scene unfolds: a farmer stands near the edge of a wide hand-dug well, distraught. Groundwater levels continue to drop every year, increasing salinity and reducing the amount of crops that can be cultivated. Precipitation does not replenish the shallow aquifer like it used to. Groundwater depletion is a vexing phenomenon threatening sustainable economic and social development in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Controlling and managing over-abstraction has become a clear challenge for policy-makers, managers and academics in the region.

Can innovative policies and regulations be used to reverse the current trend of groundwater depletion? This complex problem requires a systematic far-reaching approach that builds on existing knowledge and practices within and beyond the region. Implemented by IWMI and national partners in Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, and the UAE, a three-year USAID-funded project studied the uses, limitations and potential of policy tools and stakeholder dialogue to curb groundwater over-abstraction. The project has found that the current regulation and management tools in the MENA region suffer from five “wicked” problems that prevent them from properly addressing groundwater issues.

1. Scattered web of groundwater users

The main problem affecting groundwater resources in the MENA region is the myriad and scattered number of groundwater users.

Read the full article: CGIAR

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Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.