Assessment of the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus in the North Western Sahara Aquifer System

7 January, 2021

Shared by Algeria, Libya and Tunisia, the North Western Sahara Aquifer System (NWSAS) is North Africa’s largest groundwater reserve, supporting the lives and livelihoods of 4.8 million inhabitants.

A vital water resource extending over 1 million square kilometres in a highly arid environment, the aquifer system is naturally vulnerable due its low natural recharge. Pressures on water have been increasing over the past three decades with the rise of new industrial agriculture, with water abstraction currently standing at 3 times the aquifer’s natural recharge rate (1 billion cubic meters per year). This results in pressures on water and soil quality, leading to a vicious cycle of reduced agricultural productivity and increased energy demand for pumping from deep wells. Fragile ecosystems, such as wetlands, are consequently under threat and local populations are exposed to significant vulnerability.

The UNECE and Global Water Partnership report ‘Reconciling resource uses: Assessment of the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus in the North Western Sahara Aquifer System, underlines the urgency of taking action across borders and sectors to address the threats leading to the degradation of the aquifer system.