Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

“Progress in water use efficiency policies”

Written by Michel Neumuller, MARSEILLE on Thursday, March 7th 2013 à 16:58 | Read 570 times

MEDITERRANEAN. Booklet 14 of the Plan Bleu underlines that Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries are making progress in the reduction of network losses or losses linked to use. It also says that a water demand management policy combined with unconventional resources should allow water deficit reduction to go further. We interview its editor.

You mention a water efficiency plan for 2025.  How is it developing?
Between 2000 and 2005 the Plan Bleu highlighted the importance of losses and waste around the Mediterranean basin.  These losses are estimated at 100km3 a year, which is equivalent to 40% of total water demand.  We suggest the improvement in delivery of these networks and of a rational use of water on agricultural land. The Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development, adopted by the basin countries in 2005, fixes objectives to be achieved by 2025.  Some are getting close to these; Israel and Cyprus have reached them already.
What did those two countries do, in terms of efficiency?
Israel combined three actions: regulations that targeted improving efficiency, pricing that rewarded water conservation, and technical advances in network surveillance and modern irrigation systems.  Cyprus is doing the same, by prioritising the preservation of drinking water.

"We need common efficiency indicators"

With Water Efficiency system (XDR Plan Bleu)
With Water Efficiency system (XDR Plan Bleu)
But what about agricultural water and possible conflicts in usage?
Agricultural production needs to increase in order to feed growing populations. A sustainable development policy, based around management of water demand, can allow the avoidance of investing in costly hydraulic dams.  Of course the risk of a conflict between agricultural and domestic water usage exists.  It can be avoided with the help of sustainable management of agricultural demand. This means optimising the water that is used. Savings here can benefit others there, notably by favouring water access to the poorest.  Thus, in Morroco and in other countries, desalination for domestic purposes could help unlock freshwater resources for agriculture, in addition to the reuse of wastewater.

Your study also shows that economy policies also have their limits.
They will not necessarily be sufficient in a context of increased scarcity, exacerbated by the effects of climate change.  For example, Israel would lack water.  That’s why it has launched a programme of reusing waste water, and another of sea water desalination.  Tunisia and Morroco are establishing their own water reuse programmes right now.  Linked to their national sanitation programmes, they should benefit agricultural irrigation.
Finally you highlight the difficulties in harmonising data.
The data depends on multiple agencies and players, and the information lacks harmonisation. I therefore suggest the creation of a national information system on water, that is unique and that centralises information.  Our “Water Efficiency” study has focused on agricultural and domestic water and, with the absence of global or comprehensive statistics, has left industry usage out. We need common efficiency indicators for the whole of the Mediterranean basin.

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