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ANZAR – Water Conference

Maghreb Economic Forum – Think-and-Do Tank

Water scarcity faced with uncertainty:

Multilateral dialogue on effective water management and innovative water diplomacy for the Maghreb region.

Anzar: is a god of Berbers of the Maghreb mythology, the Lord of rain and water, which plays a prominent role as it is the case with all the rain gods in Mesoamerican, Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythologies.
Themes for discussion:
  • Global Agenda on Water, Peace and Cooperation.
  • Best practices, affordable technologies and potential for international cooperation and partnerships in water management and water diplomacy.
  • Sustainable financing of water infrastructure.
  • Effective partnerships leaving no one behind with focus on the most vulnerable.


Water is one of life’s most basic requirements. Water is one of essential human rights, as there is no life without water. It is essential for sustaining life and health i.e. for drinking, for hygiene and for supporting sanitation. The UN Agenda 2030 includes one specific goal on Water, this is Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) which calls for the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Not achieving SDG6 will affect all other SDGs including those related to poverty reduction, food security, improved health, gender equality, energy, economic prosperity and environment sustainability. The COVID-19 pandemic further stressed the importance of equitable and universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

As the world’s population grows, so does the demand for water. Global freshwater use has increased by a factor of six over the past 100 years and continues to grow at a rate of roughly 1% per year since the 1980s (World Water Report 2021). The increased water usage is attributed to population growth, economic development and shifting consumption patterns. It is estimated that agriculture currently accounts for 69% of global water withdrawals, Industry (including energy and power generation) accounts for 19%, while municipalities are responsible for the remaining 12% (World water report 2021).

Although, only about 0.3 percent of the world’s water resources are usable, experts recognize that there is enough water for all provided it is used and managed efficiently. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Over two billion people live in countries experiencing water stress (United Nations, 2018) which is measured by water use as a function of available supply. About 1.6 billion people face ‘economic’ water scarcity, which means that while water may be physically available, they lack the necessary infrastructure to access that water (World Water Report 2021). Methods for better valuation and better management of water resources are needed urgently. In addition, to ensure sustainability of water resources and achieve universal access, policy makers need to follow a structured approach to manage competing priorities preserving population rights and encouraging good agriculture and industrial practices in using water supplies.

With over 275 transboundary basins on earth, collaboration on water management is critical for freshwater biodiversity and healthy ecosystems to be preserved. Approximately 40% of the world’s population resides in river and lake basins that span two or more countries, and over 90% of that population lives in countries that share basins. Because of the complexity of sharing water across and among states, new methods to water administration and diplomacy are required. The convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water convention) is a unique international legal instrument and intergovernmental platform which aims to facilitate cooperation and ensure sustainable use of share water resources. Initially negotiated at a regional agreement, the Convention was opened for access to all UN member states in 2016.

The transboundary issues are further complicated by interweaving and intensifying climate change and pollution effects. With more frequent droughts, floods and natural disasters, climate change is likely to increase seasonal variability, creating a more erratic and uncertain water supply, thus exacerbating problems related to water stress. In addition, pollution will further aggravate this phenomenon with an estimated 80% of all industrial and municipal wastewater being released into the environment without any prior treatment, with detrimental effects on human health and ecosystems. In this context, we must use water diplomacy to support the dialogue among countries, and help transform potential water-related conflicts into cooperation and to promote peace.

In the Maghreb region—Algeria, Morocco,, Tunisia and Libya—have spent extensively in water development projects over the last few decades to address the serious issues faced by an arid/semiarid climate with extremely variable and irregular rainfall and limited water supplies. Dams, canals, wells, irrigation projects, and water delivery systems have all been developed with interesting results. Between 1970 and 1990, the irrigated area virtually doubled, and nearly all urban people in the Maghreb countries, as well as a major portion of Tunisia’s rural population, gained access to safe drinking water. Improved water supply infrastructure has boosted economic growth and mitigated the negative consequences of droughts to some extent.

In fact, political tensions related to water are centered around the exploitation of the aquifer zone of the northern Sahara (Albian nappe) which connects Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria, the exploitation of waters of Oued Majerda between Tunisia and Algeria, and political tensions between Morocco and Algeria which affects the overall regional cooperation in this field. The disputes and tensions around water resources and water use brings about the importance of mediation, conflict resolution and bi/multilateral cooperation.


Tunisia has the highest rates of access to water and sanitation in the Middle East and North Africa. Access to drinking water has become almost universal, reaching 100% in urban areas and 94% in rural areas. The country has around 4.6 billion m3 of water that can be mobilized: 60% flows on the surface, 40% is underground, but 80% of water resources are found in the north of the country and 70% of water resources under land, they are south. Thus, each Tunisian theoretically has 450 m3 / year. The lowest threshold “Water stress”, is commonly set at the level of 500 m3 / year / inhabitant. With its semi-arid to arid climate, surface water resources are scarce in the south of the country, but the northern coastal region has relatively abundant rainfall and surface water resources. Groundwater is the main source of water – shallow, renewable, and deep, often non-renewable groundwater.

More than 75% of groundwater is used by agriculture; the rest is mainly for domestic supply. Uncontrolled overexploitation of groundwater, mainly for irrigation by small farmers, is causing overexploitation of aquifers in some areas.


Based on the diversity of issues posed by water as a natural resource, a public good and critical input for economic and social development, this meeting will bring together main stakeholders dealing with the water problem worldwide, in the Maghreb and in Tunisia. National and international experts, academics, consumer representatives, civil society, local authorities, private sector, as well as representatives of public authorities will provide insights and answers to critical questions of governance, financing, infrastructure development, technology, spatial planning as well as transboundary issues.

This event is intended to be a diverse as well as inclusive event in water resources management and water resilience, providing an exhaustive overview of the current international, regional, and national situation, and exposing innovative, practical and operational solutions to water resource management based on current research, new techniques using among others artificial intelligence.

In particular, the event will examine some of the solutions that are proposed in the literature to ensure sustainability of water management. For example, in its publication1, the World Bank suggests that improving sustainability and efficiency of water management in the region is feasible if the right solutions are adopted collaboratively and implemented effectively by all countries in the region.

The solutions revolve around three nonexclusive strategies to strengthen water security:
  • Use (or lose) less water, to reduce demand
    • Demand management strategies include water service fees and pricing that reflect the resource’s scarcity and promote conservation; incentives and technologies to enhance productivity and efficiency; control of losses and leakage.
  • Reallocate water, to realign demand
    • Regulations and market-based tools include planning and prioritization of high value water uses balanced with safeguards for social equity and stability; water rights, subsidies, and pricing policies; regulations and enforcement to control unplanned overexploitation.
  • Provide (or create) more water, to meet demand
    • Supply side responses include development of a diversified portfolio of conventional and nonconventional water resources; coordinated use of surface and groundwater; stormwater capture, wastewater recycling and reuse.


The event is a meeting place for strategic thinking about water. It aims to encourage discussions and sharing of experience, to disseminate new knowledge and research results, and to present new developments in the field of water management.

The solution-oriented multi-stakeholders debate, will be structured around four multisectoral panel which will:

  • Expose the importance of water resilience and the critical role of water diplomacy.
  • Portray the current situation of water resources management in the Maghreb, the transboundary issues and the importance of regional cooperation at policy level for a win-win strategy.
  • Explore public policies in terms of exploitation and management of water resources in Tunisia and highlight potential solutions to overcome the challenges.
  • How to align competing priorities and implement a fair access to water for people use vs. economic use.


  1. Enhanced awareness about water issues and aggravating situation by high-level decision makers, government agencies, river basin authorities, consumers and civil society.
  2. Roadmap for strengthened and expanded international/regional cooperation on water.
  3. Effective framework to attract investors’ interest in sustainable financing of water supply, sanitation and wastewater infrastructure of the Maghreb region.
  4. MEF Action Plan for 2022-2023 on promotion of effective management of water resources and innovative water diplomacy.


8:30-9:00Participants Registration and Press Release distribution
9:00-9:15Welcome remarks
Slim Othmani (President MEF-Tunisia)
(Tunisian Government Representative)
9:15-9:30Water Geopolitics Issues & Strategy
9:30-10:00Water quandary in the maghreb
10:00-10:30Water Diplomacy
10:30-11:30Needs: Population, Agriculture, Industry, Energy, Environment
11:30-12:00Financing & Infrastructure
12:00-12:30State of the Art : Technology & Innovation
12:30-13:00The Case of Tunisia: Are we running out of water?
13:00-13:15Conclusion and recommandations
13:45Acknowledgments & Invitation to the Networking Cocktail


United Nations Water “UN Water”

Tunisian Government

Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries

Ministry of Industry

Ministry of Tourism

Institut Arabe des Chefs d’Entreprises IACE

Union Tunisienne de l’Industrie, du Commerce et de l’Artisanat UTICA

Confédération des Entreprises Citoyennes de Tunisie CONNECT

National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia (INAT) National Engineering School of Tunis (ENIT)

University of Rural Equipment Engineers of Medjez El Bab (ESIM)


SociĂ©tĂ© d’Exploitation du Canal et des Adductions des Eaux du Nord (SECADENORD)

Office of Topography and Cadastre National Institute of Statistics (INS) Groupe Chimique

Compagnie des Phosphates de Gafsa (CPG) Tunisian Water Observatory