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Morocco water supply fears as worst drought since 80s bites

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A man rides a motorcycle past dead palm trees in Morocco's Skoura, an oasis area of around 40 square kilometres, in a file picture from January 2020. AFP

Morocco water supply fears as worst drought since 80s bites

As Morocco withers under its worst drought in 40 years, experts warn that a combination of climate change and bad resource management could trigger severe drinking water shortages.

“The country hasn’t seen a situation like this since the start of the 1980s,” said water policy expert Abderrahim Hendouf.

While it was usually farmers who bore the brunt of repeated droughts in the North African kingdom, today water supplies to cities are under threat, water minister Nizar Baraka told parliament in mid-March.

Morocco has had little rain since September, and authorities say its reservoirs have received just 11 per cent of what they would in an average year.

“That’s a worrying sign,” Abdelaziz Zerouali, the water ministry’s head of research and planning, told state television station M2, adding that some preemptive measures had been taken to mitigate the risks.

Two major cities, tourist hub Marrakesh and Oujda in the east, already started tapping into groundwater reserves in December to ensure adequate supplies.

The government in February also released a package of around €1 billion ($1.1) in aid to the beleaguered agricultural sector, which makes up some 14 per cent of gross domestic production (GDP) and is the top employer in the Moroccan countryside.

“We need to change our vision of water,” Zerouali told a conference on the right to water in Rabat. “Climate change is real and we will have to face it.”

Moroccans have access to just 600 cubic metres of water per person per year, far below the 2,600 cubic metres they enjoyed in the 1960s.

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