The cost of major projects to combat water stress currently underway is estimated at 7027 million dinars, reported National Water Distribution Utility (SONEDE) CEO Mesbah Helali on Thursday.

These projects have been set up by the Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries with the aim of reinforcing access to drinking water in urban and rural areas, and providing water for irrigation, he added at a press conference held at the department’s headquarters.

At the press conference, the official said that efforts were currently underway to complete the construction of desalination plants for saline groundwater and sea water in certain regions, by 2026. These projects will supply 30% of water needs.

He also pointed out that SONEDE had completed 117 projects to guarantee drinking water to 177,000 inhabitants, and was managing 82 distribution networks with malfunctions for the benefit of 90,000 inhabitants.

Sonede has also reactivated 30 water distribution networks that were at a standstill due to debt problems, benefiting 35,000 inhabitants.

According to Helali, projects to drill deep wells and renew certain equipment are 63% advanced, at a cost of almost 63 million dinars. The aim is to cope with peak drinking water consumption in the summer of 2023.

As for projects to treat wastewater for irrigation purposes, the official indicated that a programme to develop fodder crops using wastewater will be carried out from this season on 1,000 hectares.

On the other hand, the Ministry is currently pursuing the creation of projects to mobilise conventional water resources, including the scheduling of four dams with a capacity of 230 million m3, to be located in Siliana, Béja and Jendouba.

SONEDE CEO denied any intention to increase drinking water tariffs.”Providing our citizens with running water is our highest priority at the moment”, stressed the official.

According to him, the situation of the dams remains “alarming” despite the rains recorded recently, adding that the rise in temperatures during the summer season requires further streamlining of the use of available water resources in order to maintain the balance between supply and demand.

In this context, he pointed out that the measures to restrict water use, taken in March 2023, remain in force, while working to “reduce the cuts currently made during certain periods”.

In Tunisia, the filling rate of dams stood at 35.1% up to June 8. Recent rains have helped to increase reserves by 4.9%. Water inflows reached 584 million m3 over the period from September 1, 2022 to June 6, 2023.

Source: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse