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The water footprint of Morocco and its added value for national water policy

Schyns, J.F. (2013) The water footprint of Morocco and its added value for national water policy.

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Abstract:Morocco is a semi-arid country in the Mediterranean that faces water scarcity and deteriorating water quality. The limited water resources constrain the activities in different sectors of the Moroccan economy. The national water strategy of Morocco includes options to reduce water demand and increase supply. However, it does not include the global dimension of water by considering international virtual water trade, nor does it consider whether water resources are efficiently allocated based on physical and economic water productivities of crops (the main water consumers). The overall objective of this study is to find out the added value of knowledge on the water footprint (WF) of activities in Morocco and the virtual water flows from and to Morocco in formulating national water policy. The study includes analysis of the WF of activities in Morocco (on the river basin level on a monthly scale), the virtual water balance of the country and the WF in the context of water availability and waste assimilation capacity. Based on this, response options are formulated to reduce the WF within Morocco, alleviate water scarcity and allocate water resources more efficiently. Results and conclusions from the WF assessment are compared with the scope of analysis of, and action plans included in, Morocco’s national water strategy and river basin plans in order to address the added value of WF assessment relative to these existing plans. Main results of the WF assessment are:  The total WF of Moroccan production in the period 1996-2005 was 38.8 Gm³/yr (77% green, 18% blue, 5% grey). Crop production is the largest contributor to this WF, mainly related to the production of wheat and barley, followed by olives and maize. Evaporation from storage reservoirs accounts for the second largest form of blue water consumption nationally, after irrigated crop production. Largest WFs are found in the basins Oum Er Rbia and Sebou, the main agricultural areas. The green WF is largest in the rainy period December-May, whereas the blue WF is largest in the period April-September when irrigation demands increase.  In the period 1996-2005, Morocco’s water resources were mainly used to produce relatively low-value water-intensive (in US$/m³) crops such as cereals, olives and almonds. These crops also took the largest share in the country’s harvested area in the same period, although they had the lowest value per hectare cultivated (in US$/ha). More economic return per drop and per hectare of land cultivated was generated by production of grapes, sugar beets, citrus fruits (oranges and mandarins etc.) and tomatoes.  Morocco was a net virtual water importer in the period 1996-2005. Virtual water import was 12,643 Mm³/yr with an average cost of 0.98 US$/m³ and virtual water export was 4,307 Mm³/yr with an average earning of 1.66 US$/m³. Only 31% of the virtual water export originated from Moroccan water resources (remainder was re-export). Virtual water import and export were for 95% and 91% related to trade in crop products, respectively. By import of products instead of producing them domestically, Morocco saved 27.8 Gm³/yr (75% green, 21% blue and 4% grey) of domestic water, equivalent to 72% of the WF within Morocco.  Blue water scarcity on a monthly scale is severe in all river basins. Seasonal shortages result in high alteration of natural runoff. Also groundwater scarcity and pollution are significant in most basins, especially in the basins of Bouregreg, Oum Er Rbia and Tensift. In order to move towards sustainable use of Morocco’s blue water resources, discussing and agreeing on blue WF caps, per river basin, per month and for surface and groundwater separately, would be useful.  Potential green plus blue water savings by reallocation of crop production across basins are in the order of 1.9 and 1.2 billion m³ per year when all main crops or only annual crops are reallocated, respectively. Lowering the WFs of the main crops in each river basin down to benchmarks (which are defined as the lowest water consumption of a crop in a comparable basin) can lead to estimated green plus blue water savings of 2,768 Mm³/yr. When the water productivities of the twelve main water-consuming crops were to be improved by 10% throughout Morocco, it could potentially save 2,462 Mm³/yr of water (green plus blue).  Morocco obtained fairly large savings by food (virtual water) imports in the period 1996-2005 (27.8 Gm³/yr, see above). Increasing food imports to relieve pressure on domestic water resources increases food dependency and has negative effects on the domestic agricultural sector, which plays a critical role in the economic and social stability of Morocco.  About 4% of the water used in the Moroccan agricultural and industrial sector is used for making export products (period 1996-2005). The remainder is applied for producing products that are consumed by the Moroccan population. However, most of the virtual water export from Moroccan resources relates to the export of products with a relatively low economic value per m³ water exported (in US$/m³).
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Subject:56 civil engineering
Programme:Civil Engineering and Management MSc (60026)
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