IWA Publishing

Tunisia: Reform of irrigation policy and water conservation

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An arid country with limited water resources, Tunisia depends heavily on irrigated agriculture. The sector contributes 30-40% of the value of agricultural production, and is highly important in some regions. However, abstraction for irrigation accounts for 83% of the available water resources, competing with other uses. To conserve water resources and encourage demand management in the irrigation sector, a national water saving strategy was implemented. As part of the strategy, a number of reforms were introduced in the past few years, including the promotion of water users’ associations, an increase in the price of irrigation water, and the use of incentives to adopt technologies that water at field level. The strategy also introduced a number of supporting actions such as strengthening of applied research, improved agricultural marketing and capacity building in the irrigation sector. The integrated strategy has resulted in a marked and sudden increase in national awareness of water scarcity, and the value of water in the country’s economic development. Specific measures introduced by the new strategy included:

  • Creation of a legislative framework to promote water users’ associations and financial incentives for water saving
  • Strengthening capacity in all water management sectors, including the management water users' association supervision, training of trainers, and improving farmers' awareness of the need to improve the irrigation practice
  • An increase in water tariffs to reinforce users’ participation in cost management and to provide incentives for the adoption of water saving techniques.

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