Water crisis forces Tunisia to boost sea and wastewater purification

Jayden Irving

Throughout summer, Tunisia grapples with fresh water supply problems, exacerbated by reservoirs running dry and the rise in demand from urban growth. The north African country has imposed a water ban for months, limiting household use and banning car washing and even farm irrigation.

It is estimated that temperatures in Tunisia will increase by up to 3.8 degrees Celsius by 2050, whilst rainfall will decrease by at least 4 percent over the same time period. The World Bank has predicted that by 2030, the wider Middle East and North Africa region will fall below the absolute water scarcity threshold of 500 cubic meters per person per year.

But there is hope, thanks to the Tunisian government. It has formulated plans to close the gap between supply and demand for water through desalination plants that will be funded by Japan and the German Development Bank.

Tunisia's first desalination plant was built in 1983. Today, the country's 16 desalination plants provide 6 percent of its freshwater supplies.

The new plants are being asked to increase that to 30 percent by 2030. If that seems a high target, consider that fellow North African country Morocco already gets 25 percent of its agricultural needs from desalination.

With these new plants the seawater desalination capacity will increase by 200,000 cubic meters per day, which Imed Ben Lili, Central Director of Research at the National Company of Water Exploitation and Distribution, told CGTN Europe is a "vital and necessary increase."

Desalination has its drawbacks. Environmentalists say huge quantities of salt and sludge from desalination plants are deposited in the Mediterranean, leading to ecological changes. 

However, Tunisian engineers at the Jerba seawater desalination plant believe that the ecological impact is limited because the plants are using modern desalination technologies. Divers regularly collect samples from the sites to analyze the water.

The use of water desalination plants in hotter climates will be key to tackling droughts and to ensure countries have complete access to clean drinkable water.

Water crisis forces Tunisia to boost sea and wastewater purification

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