A Legal Framework for Auditing the Water Systems of Large-scale Consumers

Countries: Tunisia
Level: National
Region: MENA Region
Tags: Economic instrument | Institutional measure | Urban water supply
Target audience: Industry/business | Local government/municipalities | National government | NGOs and CSOs | Regional government | Water authorities | Water companies

In Tunisia, water resources management is regulated mainly by an important law — the Water Code, promulgated by Law No. 16-75 of March 31, 1975, and amended on a few occasions. However, an important reform of this legal framework occurred in 2001 (Law NO. 2001-116 of November 26, 2001) that introduced a range of principles and measures closely linked to the concept of “water demand management”.

Among these measures, included in Chapter VI, is the establishment of mandatory water systems auditing for large-scale consumers.


According to Article 89 of the Water Code, water consumption is subject to a technical, periodic and compulsory diagnosis of equipment, works and production methods linked to the use of water, starting from a threshold fixed by a decree taken according to a proposal from the minister in charge of agriculture.

Additionally, the text states that this type of diagnosis is to be carried out by experts appointed by the Minister of Agriculture.

This article also includes a penalty provision for concerned consumers who fail to make these technical, periodic and compulsory diagnoses, applying a fine of between 5,000 and 10,000 dinars. However, these penalties are not strictly enforced.

This legal statement was followed by a series of implementation texts, namely Decree No. 2002-335 of February 14, 2002, and a decision of the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources issued on April 7, 2003, which was completed and supplemented by a series of other decisions issued in 2005, 2006 and 2011.

According to Decree No. 2002-335, which details the water auditing procedure throughout its 21 articles, three types of users are concerned by this audit: agricultural users with a consumption exceeding 5 million m3 per year; domestic and hygiene users exceeding 2,000 m3 per year; and industrial users exceeding 5,000 m3 per year.

Concerning those persons entitled to act as auditors, they must comply with a series of conditions, namely:

  • to hold at least a national diploma in engineering or its equivalent, and to have a qualification in hydraulics, rural engineering, mechanics or electricity;
  • to be member of the Order of Engineers;
  • to have been trained in the field of hydraulic diagnostics; and
  • to provide necessary material and equipment for water systems auditing.

Diagnosis consists of a detailed and comprehensive review of various data related to the operation and use of these systems, as well as to control of the reliability of the measuring instruments they are equipped with.

According to the law, the aims of this diagnosis are: to identify and assess water losses, and to determine the performance of water systems and the implementation of a water loss reduction program, as well as the subsequent expenditure due to implementation.

In addition, Decree No. 2002-335 describes in a comprehensive manner the auditor’s mission and working method from the phase of the water resources inventory and data collection to the phase of the action plan preparation to reduce water leakages and identify potential alternative water resources.

This action plan proposed by the auditor must be divided into two parts: “technical aspects” and “economic and financial aspects”. The technical aspects mainly include repairing water leaks, repairing and replacing defective equipment, wastewater recycling and reuse, installation of a metering system, and searching for alternatives to industrial and agricultural production methods that reduce consumption.

Concerning the economic and financial aspects, the action plan has to be based on a detailed and comprehensive estimate of the investments to be undertaken, as well as a financial analysis over several years, highlighting the financial benefits envisaged in relation to the investment and operating costs and taking into account the equipment and material to be acquired, the costs of energy, water and treatment products, maintenance, repair and renewal, as well as subcontracting and labour costs.

At the end of its mission, the auditor must draw up a complete report containing all the information from the technical diagnostics that must be approved and signed by the legal representative of the institution. Subsequently, the report should be sent to the Rural Engineering Department of the Ministry of Agriculture for approval.

Finally, and according to the decree, this type of diagnosis has to be realised every five years. In practice, and concerning drinking large-scale consumers of water, SONEDE gives notice annually to concerned subscribers to realise the diagnosis. Once the report elaborated, a specific commission must review it. In 2015, the commission approved 42 such reports.

To implement this auditing mechanism, a certain number of auditors (natural and legal persons) have been appointed by the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, starting from 2003. These auditors have been trained and certified by SONEDE, the Tunisian drinking water utility.

It should be noted that, simultaneously, a series of financial incentives have been undertaken through decrees No. 2001-2185 of September 17, 2001, and No. 2001-2186 of September 17, 2001, to encourage those persons and companies subject to mandatory and periodic technical diagnosis to carry them out and invest in research, production and use of non-conventional water resources. These incentives must be added to those already given to farmers to improve irrigation systems to realise water savings and affect other sectors, such as industry and tourism. For those sectors, the subsidy to carry out the diagnostics may amount to 50 percent of the investment. Also, SMEs could recover up to 20 percent of their investments in research, production and use of non-conventional water resources.

From 2003 to 2015, more than 600 diagnostics were realised, of which 90 were public institutions (hospitals, schools, administrations, etc.): 50 percent were involved in industrial activities, 20 percent with tourism, and less than 1 percent with agricultural activities. On the other hand, 77 auditors were trained, certified and appointed by the authorities.

Full implementation of the reform requires a thorough evaluation and some readjustments, especially regarding mechanisms for raising the awareness of persons concerned, the incentive system, and penalties provided under law. These include strengthening the control system and providing for other types of sanctions, such as restrictions on the use of water resources.

Results obtained

  • Establishment of a corps of water systems auditors
  • Establishment of a system of financial incentives
  • Realisation of a series of technical diagnostics

Success factors

  • A comprehensive legal framework, including a series of implementation texts
  • Establishment of a certification and training body

Indicators used

  • Comprehensiveness of legal framework
  • Entry into force
  • Number of diagnostics realised
  • Number of auditors certified

This experience could be duplicated, depending on: the availability of enough experts available to fill this niche; a certification authority able to implement and supervise the mechanism; and a financial incentives system.


  •  Water Code, promulgated by Law No. 16-75 of March 31, 1975.
  • Law No. 2001-116 of November 26, 2001, “On Repealing and Replacing Certain Articles of the Water Code”.
  • Decree No. 2001-2185 of September 17, 2001, supplementing Decree No. 94-427 of February 14, 1994, “On the Classification of Investments and Laying Down Conditions and Arrangements for the Granting of Encouragement in the Field of Agriculture and Fisheries”.
  • Decree No. 2001-2186 of September 17, 2001 “On Fixing the Rate, Terms and Conditions for the Granting of Specific Premiums for Water Systems Mandatory Diagnostics Operations, Investments in Research, Production and Use of Non-Conventional Water Resources in Various Sectors, Excepting Agriculture and Investment Aimed at Achieving Water Savings in the Light of Diagnostics”.
  • Decree No. 2002-335 of February 14, 2002, “On Fixing the Point at Which Water Consumption is Subject to a Technical Diagnostics, Periodic and Mandatory Equipment, Work and Production Methods Related to the Use of Water, Conditions of Appointment of Experts, the Nature of the Diagnoses and Their Periodicity”.
  • Decision of the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources of July 22, 2006, “On Appointing Experts (Auditors) on Technical, Periodic and Mandatory Diagnostics of Equipment, Work and Production Methods Related to Water Use”, supplemented by the Decision of the Minister of Agriculture and Environment of August 15, 2011.