“We strive to raise awareness about hydraulic imbalance in Tunisia”, says Manfred Matz

“The main focus of our action is to raise awareness among the people of Tunisia to make them understand that there is a hydraulic imbalance in the country which is translated between the demand for water use and what is available sustainably”, Manfred Matz Head of Programme of Water Management Programme GIZ Tunisia said in an interview with TunisianMonitorOnline.

He made an overview of the water shortage in Tunisia, placing emphasis on the quantities of water consumed in the different sectors. He noted that water in Tunisia is a great issue saying that the hydraulic resources that come from rain are retained in dams and some seep into the ground. However, the demands vary according to the sector.

There are great differences in water availability from region to region

In Tunisia, water is a limited resource and its natural availability fluctuates significantly. In addition, water needs are constantly increasing and agriculture mobilizes 80% of water resources. Drinking water is of 15%, as for industry, 4% is the average however in tourism, water use rate is only 1%, Manfred Matz noted.

In Tunisia, surface waters are traditionally used and do not meet the demand. In addition, the groundwater is increasingly used and its level decreases. This fall is as much as two metres per year in some regions, he regretted.

However, the population is not sufficiently aware of the seriousness of the water resources situation, he said.

There is variability of supply through time as a result both of seasonal variation and inter-annual variation

The water supply solutions alone are not adequate to address the ever increasing demands from the demographic, economic and climatic pressures; waste-water treatment, water recycling and demand management measures are gradually introduced to counter the challenges of inadequate supply, Manfred Matz stressed.

In another connection, the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) is a process which promotes the co-ordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximize the economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems, he went on saying.

Manfred Matz indicated that the IWRM project is one of the three projects of the German technical cooperation GIZ that focuses on the water sector to find technical solution for the issue of water imbalance in Tunisia.

The IWRM is a major project that aims to focus more on water demand management, i.e. water consumption, through a campaign against leakage, waste and for a more efficient use of water in general, the Head of the Programme of Water Management Programme GIZ said.

He asserted that the programme endeavours to work with the general public with a focus on agriculture and the agricultural policy to direct it towards a more efficient use of hydraulic resources.

All relevant stakeholders from the public and private sectors and civil society contribute to ensuring better water resources management in central Tunisia.

The project contributes to reducing water needs by encouraging the Tunisian population to adopt responsible behaviour. The partners at the national level are the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Water Distribution Utility (SONEDE) , the National Office of Sanitation (ONAS) and the Société d’Exploitation du Canal et Adductions des Eaux du Nord (SECA du Nord),  with the collaboration of the Water Management Programme GIZ that supports the Ministry’s strategic and legal actions and which includes the national water strategy, Manfred Matz added.

Besides, the project supports public awareness and accompanies the national awareness campaign that targets women and young people who in turn play a key role in awareness-raising activities.

Focusing on the issue of water imbalance in Tunisia, Manfred Matz said that there is a large amount of water that is much higher than what is retained in dams which is technically impossible to be retained in dams because it needs appropriate geographical conditions.

Furthermore, water also faces the possibilities to be taken in other areas where water is not available, because there is a very strong variation from the extreme northwest to the south.

The problem now is the hydraulic imbalance that has resulted in an overexploitation of these water resources, he noted, comparing the water stocked in dams with the groundwater which has been stocked and recharged over the years, decades, centuries and even thousands of years.

The current issue that lasted for years is that Tunisia is taking a lot of groundwater with rather harmful consequences. First of all, production and pumping are more expensive and the coastal area has marine inclusion, he said, noting that the salty seawater infiltrates and practically harms drinking water which has also a negative impact on agriculture and makes the situation of the farming sector in the Cap Bon region more and more difficult.

Talking about the solution of this major hydraulic issue, Manfred Matz reviewed the aim of the IWRM project which consists in mobilizing an additional source to achieve the water balance and the reduction of losses and waste of water.

The programme of water management programme GIZ aims for a good management of water, and this can be achieved through a close collaboration with the authorities to deal seriously with the problem and reduce leaks of water with the state institution like the SONEDE and the SECA du Nord, he emphasized.

The Head of the Water programme also talked about the simple home user and the farmers on their farms, saying the programme targets them to become aware of the use of water that exists because water is currently overexploited. This practically affects the next generation who will live with less water.

In turn, the government is working on the management of the dam system. Recently, the authorities established a multi-year dam management system, which means that each dam will no longer be emptied each year, but the weather forecast shows that some of the water must be kept and transferred to the next year, which is called the constant quota, he underlined.

He placed emphasis on the need to act urgently to change the behaviour of the people and make them aware of the issue of water shortage calling for the urgent need to save it.

Additionally, the government has two levers to make people understand that water has a certain value, he said.

A financial incentive to encourage people to behave in a decent and civic way to save water and avoid its waste is essential. The SONEDE in turn, use the progressive pricing of water, the more we consume the more we pay to avoid the waste of water, he said.

Manfred Matz said: “in Germany we have one of the highest prices in the world we pay for the cubic meters of drinking water and the wastewater together about 18 dinars but the losses in Germany are about 8% while in Tunisia we pay one dinar per cubic meter and the average is between 30 and 40% which means a lot of loss”.

The situation has two negative effects, the SONEDE does not have enough fund to do all the necessary maintenance secondly it does not encourage water saving. If the price is higher the people’s behaviour can change. The state’s obligation is to provide water but also to make it paid at a fair price. This is an obligation shared between the government and the people that can be materialized through financial incentives in the form of regulations,  Manfred Matz Head of Programme of Water Management Programme GIZ Tunisia emphasized.

TunisianMonitorOnline (NejiMed)

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