Located in a sub-region directly threatened by global warming, Algeria is one of the countries heavily affected by water stress. Preserving the precious resource is the mother of the battles to be fought.
ALGERIA UNDER WATER STRESS
By Liberte-Algerie‘s Nabila Saidoun, August 26, 2020.
Located in a sub-region directly threatened by global warming, Algeria is one of the countries heavily affected by water stress. It is particularly evident in dry rivers, dams with meagre filling rates. But mostly by the shallow level of groundwater. The country is under threat of extreme shortages, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
More than anything else, the issue of water must be at the heart of the national battle, that is a significant concern. All experts believe that “the scarcity and mismanagement of this precious resource crystallize tensions and conflicts around the world”. And that especially by 2050, water demand is expected to increase by 55%, not only under pressure from an increasing population and an exploding consumption. The needs of the industry are expected to reach a record level of 400% by then.
Algeria has indeed invested heavily in preserving blue gold and ensuring access to safe drinking water for the national community. Still, the pressure is on the country to anticipate future crises. In addition to the urgent need to rationalize exploitation, the need to reduce waste severely, Algeria must focus on sustainable resources. And in this area, many avenues are already being explored. Preserving the precious resource is the mother of the battles to be fought.
Algeria has invested 136 billion dinars over the past 20 years to ensure the continued availability of drinking water supplies for the population. But it is clear that, despite this colossal effort, the problem still arises, as demonstrated by the recurrent protests of citizens across the country to denounce the lack of this precious resource.
The situation remains very fragile in 27 governorates in the country and even beyond. Dry taps during the last Eid festival were the last straw. During all year, things are not much better, especially in the interior of the country, which suffers from recurrent shortages sometimes lasting more than a fortnight without convincing arguments.
In addition to climate change, water experts denounce the mismanagement of the sector, in their opinion, of “previously obsolete policies”. Water resource managers who join experts on the impact of climate change also address other avenues such as leaks (30% of the water produced) and place the citizen at the heart of the problem by highlighting waste and illicit connections. They also call for greater consumer awareness and talk of “establishing a water culture”.
The situation remains very fragile in 27 governorates in the country and well beyond, even though official statistics give 75% of the population served daily. The question of water revolves, in the end, around two problems: a territory characterized by a persistent imbalance in land use, with 39 million inhabitants living in the northern fringe of the country, the remaining four million scattered in the vast desert, on the one hand, and a demand for water that is increasing exponentially, on the other.
Deficiencies and failures of the previous approach
The acceleration of climate change has rendered the hydrological models of the 1970s and 1980s obsolete. Several dams have not been able to fill up, in addition to the alarming saturation in some watersheds by overexploitation of aquifers. Two hundred colline dams have no management, absence or delay in listing of developments downstream of dams already put into water with seven large structures presenting this case (700 million m3 of water lost).
The Department makes this finding of Water Resources, which lists many other relevant points. They cite as a failure, for example, the daily distribution of water in 75% of the country’s municipalities, which is lacking in more than 27 local authorities (a situation that remains fragile). By 2010, daily distribution had affected 72% of the population. By 2020, an investment of 2.5 billion dinars increased this rate by just three percentage points or 833 billion dinars per issue).
It should also be noted that only 17% of national drinking water production comes from desalination, which is not enough and is expected to grow strongly. Two hundred sewage treatment plants and lagoons have been built in twenty years. But only 50 million m3/year are used on the 480 products. The stations were not designed to allow for the reuse of purified water but to combat MTH.
Traditional modes of agriculture and irrigation and over-exploitation of water resources result in consumption per hectare of more than 25,000 m3 (three times the accepted standard). They also note the wild levies in the field of agricultural hydraulics and illegal stings that are legion and even tolerated by the local authorities.
There is also a shallow penetration of economic irrigation techniques. The levy on the use of agricultural water is still not required. No less than 136 billion Dinars have been released in the last 20 years under supplemental emergency programmes. The exception, becoming the norm over the years, has resulted in extra costs and malfeasance and opened the door to all slippages.
The level of remuneration of the delegated project management has become more critical than the turnover of the core businesses of each company (the neglected statuary missions). Also, the budgetary does tend to view any operating expenses as lost and unprofitable.
Water daily and in all municipalities from 2021?
The big question remains: “Are we underwater stress?” Arezki Berraki, Minister of Water Resources, concludes this point, which is debatable and assures: “We are not, but we risk becoming one as early as 2021 if the rainfall is not mild.” He also mentions “a more pronounced feeling as early as 2025 because of climate change”, especially since the Mediterranean considered to be the 25th warmest point in the world makes it, fortunately, not inevitable, but solutions do exist.
It is only a matter of choosing the right solutions in the light of the recommendations of researchers and other specialists in the field whose contribution has remained, until now, somewhat marginalized. For the Department of Arezki Baraki as for the government, it is a question of having visibility by 2050. There are priorities with the promise that the situation will improve in 2021 in terms of daily access to drinking water. In all municipalities, it is 85% of the population (580 municipalities not served daily) that is supplied with fresh water. A significant challenge that many experts find “difficult to meet”.
More confident, the water resources frameworks with whom we have had the opportunity to address the issue sum up: “Many actions are being implemented, and more will come. Currently, no less than 700 projects are being carried out at the local level, in addition to ten other structuring projects. There is also a major programme of 11,900 projects to supply all grey areas without exception, by the first quarter of next year. The program currently accounts for 80% of the rate of advancement.” The success of its operations remains, of course, dependent on financial availability.
Willem Van Cotthem posted on Algeria: Country’s Dams 80 Percent Full on the country’s water infrastructure.