Tunisia introduces drinking water rationing as drought continues

Authorities also ban use in agriculture, watering green spaces, cleaning streets and washing cars

The dry bed of Tunisia's El Haouareb dam, near Kairouan, 160km south of Tunis, amid the ongoing drought. AFP
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Tunisia's Ministry of Agriculture announced on Friday the adoption of a quota system for the supply of drinking water, as the country endures its fourth successive year of drought.

These measures came into effect immediately and will last until the end of September, said officials.

Tunisia’s National Company for the Exploitation and Distribution of Water also announced that water cuts will take place every night from Friday.

Chief executive Mosbah Helali told radio station Mosaique FM that running water will no longer be available between 9pm and 3am or 4am.

The timing of the cuts may vary by region, he said.

Mr Helali said water levels in country’s dams and reservoirs had fallen from 80 per cent in 2019 to 30 per cent this year, leading to the need to ration drinking water.

For the past two weeks, Tunisian authorities have been cutting off drinking water supplies at night in parts of the capital Tunis and other cities, in an attempt to reduce consumption.

Under Friday's measures, authorities also banned the use of drinking water in agriculture, irrigation of green spaces, cleaning streets and public spaces and washing cars.

Anyone flouting these restrictions faces a fine and imprisonment for a period of between six days to six months, under the Water Law.

Tunisian dams have recorded a fall in capacity of around 1 billion cubic metres, due to low rainfall from September 2022 to mid-March 2023.

Sidi Salem Dam, in the north-west of the country, is the main source of drinking water to several regions. The level there has dropped to 16 per cent of its 580 million-cubic-metre capacity.

In recent years, Tunisia has experienced longer summers and periods of drought, placing additional pressure on already depleted groundwater sources.

Updated: March 31, 2023, 5:13 PM