Agreements on Groundwater Use To Mitigate The Devastating Effect Of Resource Depletion And Droughts On An Agricultural Area Of Morocco

Level: National
Region: MENA Region
Tags: Agriculture | Institutional measure
Target audience: Agricultural authorities | Environmental authorities | Farmers | Industry/business | Local government/municipalities | National government | Regional government | Students/university | Water authorities

Declining deep-aquifer water supply due to overexploitation and drought events, resulted in devastating losses for the Souss region’s agricultural activities, including the export-oriented cultivation of citrus fruit and garden produce. Consequently, one-third of such plantations (roughly 10,000 hectares) were destroyed. The regional authority and water-user associations agreed on a plan to curb water use and increase water use efficiency to save resources. Steps have been taken towards the agreed goals, but direct effects on the water resource have not yet been realised. Controlling borehole drilling was a key ingredient of the measure. While this restriction has been considered a successful measure, a major concern is that its effects are biased towards the producers of the big, export-oriented farms at the expense of subsistence farmers of growers with limited means.

Results obtained

A report has not yet been published on the change in aquifer recharge — neither for shallow nor for deep aquifers. Yet, even with these physical outcomes, the case offers some important lessons.

Success factors

Confiscation of borehole drilling instruments provides a strong incentive for compliance. Considering the interest of small producers is essential, but it only happened partially in this case.

Indicators used

Agricultural area either lost or abandoned.

The clearly devastating effects of water shortage offer a strong incentive for cooperation, while the exclusion of significant but poorly represented user groups will pose a threat to the sustainability of any such agreement.



  • Houdret, Annabelle, “The Privatization of Irrigation Water Services: New partnerships and water conflicts in the El Guerdane project, Morocco,” paper presented at the 13th World Water Congress, International Water Resources Association, Montpelier, France (September 1-4, 2008).
  • World Bank, “Morocco: Guerdane irrigation. Infrastructure advisory success stories,” Washington, DC (2010)