Tunisia: Tunis refines strategy to Ensure Access to Drinking Water

Tunisia’s new strategy to ensure access to drinking water was adopted by the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources, and Marine Fisheries on November 4, 2023.

Access Guarantee:

  • The strategy aims to ensure access to drinking water for the population.
  • A focus is placed on limiting arbitrary water use in agriculture, for watering green spaces, and cleaning streets.

Water Body Review:

  • The Tunisian government plans to review the position of water bodies.
  • The goal is to limit excesses and address problems related to water distribution and bill collection.

Desalination and Wastewater Reuse:

  • The government is banking on desalination of seawater.
  • Treated wastewater will be reused for irrigation, aiming to reduce pressure on the country’s drinking water supply.

Awareness Campaigns:

  • The new strategy includes campaigns to raise awareness about water’s importance as a source of wealth.

Ongoing Concerns:

  • Despite these efforts, concerns persist regarding water management and access to clean water in Tunisia.

UN Expert’s Call:

  • A UN expert on safe drinking water and sanitation recently visited Tunisia.
  • The expert called for improved water management, an end to overexploitation of aquifers, and a prioritization of drinking water.

Funding and support

International Funding:

  • The Tunisian government has secured funding from international donors to enhance the country’s drinking water supply.
  • Notably, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) and the European Union (EU) have contributed €265 million out of a total €285 million for the water and sanitation sector.

Preserving Water Resources:

  • The funding will support the implementation of five projects focused on preserving water resources in the face of challenges such as drought and flooding.

Project Allocations:

  • A portion of the funding, specifically €12.40 million, has been allocated to the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture, Resources, and Fisheries.
  • This allocation will be utilized for the implementation of two crucial drinking water supply projects.

World Bank Support:

  • Additionally, the World Bank has played a role in providing funding to the public institution responsible for managing drinking water in Tunisia.

Treated Wastewater Program:

  • The Tunisian government is actively engaged in an annual program to promote the use of treated wastewater for irrigation.

Network Performance Improvement:

  • Efforts are underway to enhance the performance of the drinking water network.
  • The focus is on reducing losses within the drinking water networks, particularly in the seven districts of central and southern Tunisia.

Quota Extension and Agriculture Ban:

  • Tunisia has extended its tap water quota system and the ban on using it for agriculture until further notice.
  • The decision is a response to a five-year drought, intensifying pressure on already depleted groundwater sources.

Comprehensive Restrictions:

  • The use of tap water for washing cars, watering green areas, and cleaning streets and public places is also prohibited.
  • Violators may face fines and imprisonment for up to six months.

Social and Economic Impact:

  • The decision to extend restrictions raises concerns about potential social tension.
  • In a country already grappling with poor public services, high inflation, and a weak economy, these measures add to the challenges faced by the people.

Earlier Measures:

  • In March 2023, Tunisia implemented a quota system for potable water and banned its agricultural use until September 30, 2023, due to a severe drought.
  • The ban on drinking water use in agriculture has now been extended until further notice.

Government’s Efforts:

  • Despite these measures, the Tunisian government is actively working to ensure access to drinking water.
  • Challenges persist, and ongoing efforts are needed to address them and guarantee access to clean water for all citizens.
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