Thirsty export crops are consuming too much of Tunisia's water

Poor planning, sparse water resources and the worsening impacts of climate change have combined to create a crippling water crisis in Tunisia, say civil society groups. In 2018 more than 94% of Tunisians had access to water, either through the national supplier or the GDA, according to official figures.

Due to random cuts to water supplies, debt and management issues with the GDAs and the poor quality of water that runs from the taps, Marzougui said about three-quarters of the population have problems accessing clean water.

Data from the ministry of agriculture shows the total amount of water available in the country can provide 420 m3 per person per year, making it a “very water scarce country”, by U.N. Water standards.

Oranges, watermelons and tomatoes are thirsty crops
Currently, about 80% of Tunisia’s natural water resources are used for agriculture, according to last year’s government figures. Thirsty crops like oranges, watermelons and tomatoes are grown for export abroad, mostly to Europe. In intensive farming regions, like Kairouan, groundwater is being extracted at a faster rate than the underground supply is renewed, as well as from non-renewable groundwater sources.

According to, a government report noted that these resources are exploited up to 400% in certain regions.

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