top of page

Issues Africa: Northern

Water In Crisis - Sudan

by Alexandra Barton

Sudan faces significant problems within and surrounding its borders: social conflict, political hostility, displacement, poverty, disease and viruses, and water scarcity. Its water crisis antagonizes other issues, with parts of the country’s environment even developing in to unsuitable living area.

Water scarcity and drastic ecological change are viewed by scientists and sociologists as a root of a violent conflict occurring in the region of Darfur. Droughts during the 1980s caused parts of Sudan’s landscapes to become unlivable, forcing migrations of nomadic herders in to regions of sustained rural farmlands. From this, and the resulting competition for water sources, social conflict arose. All forms of poor agricultural communities depend on Sudan’s limited supply of accessible water to survive, which has bred conflict.

The livelihood of Sudan depends on its current overuse of its water sources. 80% of the country works in agriculture,accounting for 97% of its water use. Most farms are rural and fed by rainwater. They provide for a family or a small community, making them the majority means of living for the Sudanese. However, rural farms are adversely affected by Sudan’s government and its water policies. The government uses most of the area’s underground water sources to provide for their own mechanized farms. The irrigation used to feed the government controlled farms and intense farming by rural Sudanese are causal to the arid environment diffusing over Sudan.

Women and children must spend the most time in their days to collect water from distant sources. By this, they risk their health and safety, and lose productivity from other domestic duties. In Sudan about 2% of water is available for domestic use (In the United States, water for domestic use accounts for 13% of total supply).

Most of Sudan’s currently accessible underground water is shared with surrounding countries. Sudan utilizes part of the Nile River Basin, but its use is not regulated or maintained by the government. This unrestrained use of shared water, mostly for irrigation and energy, creates tension with neighboring countries like Egypt and Ethiopia. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) uses the term water stress to refer to a situation where political or economic problems occur because of a lack of water.

According to the Water Systems Analysis Group at the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space at the University of New Hampshire, about a quarter of Africa’s population suffers from water stress. Sudan has a serious case of water stress.

Sudan’s people are at high risks for contracting waterborne diseases. Within five months in 2006 there were 476 deaths caused by diarrhoea, with Cholera-causing bacterium present in stool samples. Similarly, the Darfur region had 3753 reported cases of hepatitis E from May to August 2004.

Contaminated drinking water may also cause Dracunculiasis, or Guinea Worm Disease. It can rapidly affect a water supply for a village by one infected person, harming the total area. Three out of five cases of Guinea Worm Disease come from Sudan. Open water sources, such as standing ponds, are common modes of transferring diseases in villages.

Sudan’s ecological changes have left the Sudanese to struggle for their own survival. The country is failing to provide clean, accessible water to all regions, and the effects create conflict.

Tunisia: Making Progress

to Reduce Water Scarcity

by Saima Hedrick

Tunisia is a north-African nation on the Mediterranean Sea that has a population of 10.5 million with an annual water capacity of 4.8 billion m. The average Tunisian gets less than 500 m per year which, according to the FAO, means that the nation is water-scarce. In 2003, the Tunisian government decided to institute several water reform policies to bring water to the entire nation by developing the existing water resources and investigating new water technologies.

Desalination efforts involve using reverse osmosis at four desalination plants, producing almost 50,000 m of drinking water per day. Another sixty plants provide water for the industrial sector. This type of treatment currently only produces 4% of the nation’s water. Therefore the National Agricultural Research Institute of Tunisia is working on developing other desalination technologies that are more efficient and easier to use.

Wastewater is also another resource that needs to be developed. Studies show that crops watered with treated wastewater are more productive than those watered with groundwater alone. In 2008, 98 wastewater treatment plants produced a total of 190 million m of effluent. However, in 2002 alone, the amount of wastewater created was 240 million m. The steady increase of population has resulted in a much higher volume, with an insufficient number of treatment plants to process it. The government is working to build new treatment facilities and improve treatment technologies to make the current plants more productive.

Recharging of the water table, which is the artificial replenishing of ground water by rerouting reclaimed water to the area of depletion, is another strategy being used. This is being done in the Cap Bon region, a peninsula in far northeastern Tunisia. It is estimated that this process can be improved to provide more than 200 million m3 per year by 2030.

Lastly, several irrigation improvement projects are underway. The irrigation systems, which use 81% of the nation’s water for agriculture, lose an estimated 11% of the water to leaks. Other projects are also being financed by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the World Bank, and various other foreign organizations.

As a result of these policies and foreign funding, the drinking water supply rate has increased from 96.1% to 98% in 5 years. Since Tunisia is water-scarce, the population is on the rise, and the nation is already using 95% of available water, the government will need to continue these efforts and improve water management to meet the needs of its people.

For more information, contact Saima at

Private Waters in Algeria

By Jason Zheng

Privatizing water can lead to numerous benefit for the country or state, the primary benefit is how it can regulate and improve the economy of that state. This is the rule that Algeria follows to improve their economy and as well having their water regulated by someone experienced. The Ministry of Water Resources, Abdelmalek Sellal stated that management contracts are crucial components of ensuring a 24-hour water supply. To describe how efficient it is when water has been privatized, this article will further analyze how well these practices and its application in the country’s four largest cities—Algier, Annaba, Constantine and Oran.

Algiers: In November 2005 the Suez Environment from France was awarded Euro 113 million, 5.5 year-management contract for the Algiers. The objectives are to distribute good quality of water to the people of Algiers improve bathing water quality, rehabilitate infrastructure and to improve customer satisfaction. Since January 2009 the continuity of water increased from 16% to 80%. In addition to this, 7 beaches were opened to the public. In 2011, the continuity reached 99%. With this being said, the contract has been renewed for another five years and extended to the province of Tipaza in September 2011.

Annaba: In December 2007, the Gelsenwasser from Germany was awarded a Euro 50 million, 5.5 year-management for the city. However, the investment program slowed down causing the cancellation of the contract in 2010. The Gelsenwasser blames the failure on lack of participation while the Algerian authorities stated that it was a lack of expertise.

Constantine: In June 2008 the Société des Eaux de Marseille (SEM) of France was awarded a Euro 28 million, 5.5 year contract for the city. However, the relationship of the SEM and local water and sanitation was not a healthy one and the relationship was filled with tension, with additional pressure by union workers.

Oran: In November 2007, the Augas de Barcelona of Spain was awarded Euro 30 million, 5.5 year-management for the city. The relationship between the company and Oran improved and the Ministry of Water Resources of Algeria recognized the company for their work.

Other cities in Algeria rely on publicly owned and managed utilities that continue to provide water and sanitation services without the partnerships of the private companies. However, this stance may change because the government announced that the next potential cities that are eligible for management contracts are Setif, Sidi Bel Abbes, and Mostaghanem.

bottom of page