Regional workshop examines water demand management and climate change solutions

April 4, 2017 | By Valerio Ponzo

The Regional Workshop on Water Resources and Demand Management in a Changing Climate took place from March 28 to 30, 2017, in Djerba, Tunisia.

The workshop provided an opportunity for the WATER SUM project team, participants and beneficiaries to take stock of all the activities performed so far, and to contribute with essential inputs to the progress and finalisation of a number of key project deliverables. It also represented the culmination of a series of national-level workshops and trainings dedicated to Action 1.1 – Water Demand Management and to Action 3 Water Resources Management In A Changing Climate that have taken place within the frame of the WATER POrT project component of WATER SUM since the beginning of 2016. The workshop was also presented an opportunity to strengthen dialogue and cooperation, as set forth in Action 2 of WATER POrT.

Over 70 participants from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia worked together over the three days to address challenges and to propose solutions that cut across integrated water resources management (IMWR), water demand management, and climate change. The participants juggled between plenary sessions and topic-based sessions, learned from experiences from other countries, and exchanged knowledge and lessons learned.

Mr Ali Bouaiycha, Director General of the Mednine Regional Agricultural Development Commission, a body of the Ministry for Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries of Tunisia, opened the regional workshop on behalf of the host country. Mr Bouaiycha thanked the Government of Sweden for supporting the MENA region through the WATER SUM Project, as well as the Regional Environmental Center (REC) for its sound and professional implementation of the project. He pointed out how the WATER POrT project component of WATER SUM has been providing support for beneficiary countries engaged in the project to boost development, improve planning, build capacity, enrich regional dialogue and reinforce the skills of key water actors in adopting and applying the approach for IWRM for improving water resources management and adaptation measures in a changing climate. Finally, he underlined the importance of partnership, water diplomacy and inclusive participation across MENA and other regions in facing challenges linked to water scarcity and a changing climate.

After the opening session, the participants were divided into two thematic working groups: one group focused on water demand management (WDM), while the other group focused on adaptation to climate change (ACC). Each working group alternated between presentations and group discussions on tailored sub-topics linked to their overarching theme.

Day 2 of the workshop featured an afternoon session dedicated to modern water demand management solutions. Such solutions include desalination, which is the process of removing the salt from seawater to turn the latter into fresh drinking water that can be used for several purposes. The use of seawater desalination is an additional source for coastal areas, given the scarcity of renewable freshwater resources available. Similarly, desalination can limit the overexploitation of groundwater within the country, thereby improving the water balance and contributing to a better integrated resource management.

SONEDE representatives introduced the desalination plant of Mezraya, which is currently under construction and will be completed by 2018. Once ready, this plant on the island of Djerba will have a capacity of 50,000 m³/d (expandable to 75,000 m³/d), and will help to offset the water deficit of 500 liter/second during summer months that the Tunisian region of Medenine is experiencing.

The participants travelled next to the Guellala Groundwater Desalination Plant for a guided tour of the facilities. Here, they witnessed first-hand how brackish groundwater is processed and transformed into water that can be safely used in agriculture and in households.

The final day of the workshop was dedicated to communication and participation tools and methods. An introductory presentation and an overview of best practices in Tunisia and Egypt set the stage for a group exercise. The participants were asked to represent a main target group invited to join a participatory process, whose final aim would be the rolling out of a new water consumption policy that encourages a more sustainable and efficient use of the available water resources. Each group then appointed a rapporteur to outline the main findings to all participants. This spurred a broader discussion that highlighted commonalities and differences between the interests and priorities of the different target groups, as well as the need to foster dialogue and cooperation to reach a mutually acceptable policy for all.

The WATER POrT team also introduced the water scarcity and drought e-practicum. This database-like online tool is an exchange platform, an inventory and a catalogue of best practices and lessons learned on water scarcity and drought management. The purpose of the e-practicum is to store knowledge on water scarcity and drought management and to make it accessible for all regional and local actors in order to create their own tailor-made approaches. This, in turn, improves the skills and capacities of respective national authorities and practitioners, and provides innovative examples to be replicated in other sectors and regions.

Below are some of the take-home messages from the regional workshop:

  • Adaptation to climate change should focus on trend analyses, as well as on achieving a better understanding the patterns, variability and impacts of extreme events.
  • Economic, social and environmental impacts call for increased collaboration in evaluating and implementing adaptation measures.
  • Learning from climate change experiences can help to formulate actions more easily.
  • River basin management plans (RBMPs) are a key tool for enhancing transboundary and multilateral cooperation, and for offsetting the impacts of climate change in shared river basins.
  • Schemes for making water services more affordable for low-income households should consider introducing a basic, subsidised price for basic needs connected to a progressive tariff scheme.
  • Educational programmes and projects on water saving must include as many target audiences as possible to facilitate dialogue, and cooperation, which can help generate a "snowball" effect.
  • Water scarcity has probably contributed to the attitude shift towards wastewater reuse, which has greatly improved over the last 15-20 years.
  • Legal measures are insufficient to prevent illegal use of water: monitoring, enforcing and involvement of all groups are complementary, critical actions.
  • The gradual, smooth change of water resource management approaches can benefit from training in recent technologies, better management of resources, and pilot projects to demonstrate benefits and to serve as cases for economic analysis.


TAGS: WATER SUM | Water management | Tunisia | Capacity building | MENA region | WATERPOrT