Tunisia introduces water quota system due to severe drought


  • World
  • Friday, 31 Mar 2023

A view shows a bridge over Sidi El Barrak dam with depleted levels of water, in Nafza, west of the capital Tunis, Tunisia, January 7, 2023. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui

TUNIS (Reuters) -Tunisia on Friday introduced a quota system for potable water and banned its use in agriculture until Sept. 30 in response to a severe drought that has hit the country, the agriculture ministry said.

Tunisia, which is suffering a fourth straight year of serious drought, recorded a drop in its dam capacity to around 1 billion cubic meters, or 30% of the maximum, due to a scarcity of rain from September 2022 to mid-March 2023, senior agriculture ministry official Hamadi Habib said.

The agriculture ministry also banned the use of potable water to wash cars, water green areas and clean streets and public places. Violators face a fine and imprisonment for a period of between six days to six months, according to the Water Law.

Residents said that Tunisian authorities have for the last two weeks been cutting off drinking water at night in some areas of the capital and other cities in a bid to cut consumption, a move that has sparked widespread anger. The government declined to comment on the claim.

The new decision threatens to fuel social tension in a country whose people suffer from poor public services, high inflation and a weak economy.

The Sidi Salem Dam in the north of the country, a key provider of drinking water to several regions, has declined to only 16% of its maximum capacity of 580 million cubic meters, official figures showed.

Tunisia’s grain harvest will be "disastrous", with the drought-hit crop declining to 200,000-250,000 tonnes this year from 750,000 tonnes in 2022, senior farmers union official Mohamed Rjaibia told Reuters on Thursday.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by David Goodman and Jan Harvey)

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