Water Report 2016 _ English Version

Page 18

Searching for Balance: Water Use in Morocco Growing water scarcity and more frequent drought in Morocco are driving innovative local projects such as fog harvesting in the coastal mountains.

Writer: Sedeer el-Showk

I was raised between the desert and the sea. To the south and east, mountains draw moisture out of the air coming in over the Atlantic and send it tumbling back down to the coast. I grew up on my parents’ farm in Morocco’s green coastal strip, in a country where many people have yet to come to terms with the reality of water scarcity.

and feeding a range of support industries, from suppliers to merchants. Agriculture also has effects which are not captured by official figures, such as providing work for day laborers or keeping children on small family farms rather than in school. Underpinning this entire structure, and fueling it, is water.

People here talk about rain. In years with too little rain or snowfall, farmers do poorly, and the strain often ripples through to the rest of the economy, especially during a string of dry years. Given its prominence in our awareness, I was surprised to discover that agriculture makes up only 15-20% of Morocco’s GDP. Nevertheless, agriculture is a major driver of the Moroccan economy, accounting for four out of every ten jobs

Despite this, people do not really save water. Morocco’s population has more than tripled since 1950, and though there is only a third as much water available per person as there was 50 years ago, water availability ranks low in the concerns of most people, who are not yet suffering an acute water shortage. More than 85% of Morocco’s water supply is used in agriculture, where inefficient and outdated supply systems and irrigation


methods lead to widespread wastage. The same is true in domestic contexts, where saving water is virtually unheard of in most households. “I come from a country with thousands of lakes, but we’re taught to conserve water more than people here are,” my Finnish partner Hannele observed. Growing up, I was never bothered by the lavish use of water I saw, from washing cars and watering lawns to letting the water run while doing the dishes, but now these habits seem strikingly out of place in this arid country. A close friend used to joke about the way shopkeepers “water the sidewalk” to keep the dust down, an image that is difficult to reconcile with Morocco’s ever-encroaching desert.


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