minimppv.gif (940 bytes)minimtoc.gif (878 bytes)minimpnx.gif (858 bytes)



Morocco, located in the north-west of the African continent, has a total area¹ of 446 500 km² It is bordered in the west by the Atlantic Ocean, in the north by the Mediterranean Sea, in the northeast by Algeria and in the south-east and south by Mauritania.

The country can be divided into four physiographic units:

The cultivable area has been estimated at 8 million hectares, which is 18% of the total area. In 1993, the total cultivated area was 7.23 million ha, of which 6.57 million ha consisted of annual crops and 0.66 million ha consisted of permanent crops.

The total population is 27 million (1995), of which 52% is rural. The average population density is 61 inhabitants/km, but on the coastal areas the population density is highest. It is low in the mountain and desert zones, where it is concentrated around the oases. In 1993, agriculture, including forestry and fisheries, accounted for 14.3% of GDP, employing about 47% of the labour force. The irrigated areas represent 17% of the cultivated areas, but contribute about 45% to agricultural earnings.

TABLE 1 - Basic statistics and population

Physical areas:
Area of the country 1995 44650000 ha
Cultivable area 1992 8 000 000 ha
Cultivated area 1993 7 232 700 ha
- annual crops 1993 6 568 300 ha
- permanent crops 1993 664 400 ha
Total population 1995 27028000 inhabitants
Population density 1995 61 inhab./km²
Rural population 1995 52 %
Water supply coverage:
Urban population 1990 100 %
Rural population 1990 18 %


TABLE 2 - Water: sources and use

Renewable water resources:
Average precipitation   336 mm/yr
    150.0 km³/yr
Internal renewable water resources   30.0 km³/yr
Total (actual! renewable water resources 1995 30.0 km³/yr
Dependency ratio 1995 0 %
Total (actual) renewable water resources per inhabitant 1995 1 110 m³/yr
Total dam capacity 1992 11 000 106
Water withdrawal:
- agricultural 1991 10 180 106m³/yr
- domestic 1992 543 106m³/yr
- industrial 1992 322 106m³/yr
Total water withdrawal   11 045 106m³/yr
per inhabitant 1991 436 m³/yr
as % of total (actual) renewable water resources   36.8 %
Other water withdrawal 1990 380 106m³/yr
Average groundwater depletion   - 106m³/yr
Wastewater - Non-conventional water sources:
- produced wastewater 1994 370 106m³/yr
- treated wastewater   - 106m³/yr
- reused treated wastewater     106m³/yr
Desalinated water 1992 3 4 106m³/yr



Average annual rainfall is 340 mm, but varies from more than 450 mm in the north, where rainfed agriculture is possible? to less than 150 mm towards the south-east, where irrigation is absolutely necessary. Over 50% of the precipitation is concentrated on only 15% of the country's area.

Water resources

The water resources have been evaluated at 30 km³/year, out of which 16 km³ of surface water and 5 km³ of groundwater are considered to represent water development potential (Figure 1). The most important rivers are equipped with dams, allowing surface water to be stored for use during the dry seasons. In 1990, 34 dams were operational, with a total dam capacity of 11 km³. Of these dams, 13 were used in the schemes operated by the regional agricultural development offices (ORMVA or Office Regional de Mise en Valeur Agricole).

Water withdrawal

In 1992, water withdrawal was estimated at about 11 km³, of which over 92 % for agricultural purposes (Figure 2). Of this total of 11 km³, 7.5 km³ was surface water and 3.5 km³ groundwater. In 1990, 236 000 water points were counted in the rural areas (91 % wells, 8% springs, 1% surface water points), which was equal to about 1 water point to 50 inhabitants, of which 16% were operated by mechanical or motorized water extraction techniques. A health survey showed that 84% of water points delivered non potable water. About 10% of the rural population receives water in a more or less satisfactory way through collective systems and 8% benefits from a water distribution network, which leads to a water supply coverage of 18% in rural areas. A major effort is being undertaken, starting in 1996, to increase this percentage within the next eight years. Hydro-electricity produced 1500 GWh in 1991, or 30% of the total energy production of the country. In 1990, 230 million m³ of water were used for hydropower and 150 million m³ for environmental protection (wadis).

TABLE 3 - Irrigation and drainage

Irrigation potential 1993 1653000 ha
1. Full or partial control irrigation: equipped area 1989 1093200 ha
- surface irrigation 1989 986 000 ha
- sprinkler irrigation 1989 103 200 ha
- micro-irrigation 1989 4 000 ha
% of area irrigated from groundwater 1989 31.1 %
% of area irrigated from surface water 1989 68.3 %
% of area irrigated from non-conventional sources 1989 0.6 %
% of equipped area actually irrigated   - %
2. Spate irrigation area 1989 165 000 ha
3. Equipped wetland and inland valley bottoms (i.v.b.)   - ha
Total irrigation (1+2+3) 1989 1258200 ha
- as % of cultivated area   17 %
4. Flood recession cropping area   - ha
Total water managed area (1+2+3+4) 1989 1258200 ha
- as % of cultivated area   17 %
- increase over last 10 years   - %
- power irrigated area as % of water managed area   - %
Full or partial control irrigation schemes: Criteria
Large-scale schemes > - ha 1989 431 650 ha
Medium-scale schemes     ha
Small-scale schemes < - ha 1989 661 550 ha
Total number of households in irrigation      
Irrigated crops:
Total irrigated grain production 1990 1025000 tons
as % of total grain production 1990 15 %
Harvested crops under irrigation (full or partial control) 1990 1073000 ha
- permanent crops: total 1990 186 000 ha
- annual crops: total 1990 887 000 ha
. cereals 1990 410 000 ha
. vegetables 1990 140 000 ha
. fodder crops 1990 100 000 ha
. pulses 1990 89 000 ha
. other annual crops (sugar beet/cane, cotton,...) 1990 148 000 ha
Drainage - Environment:
Drained area   - ha
as % of cultivated area   - %
- drained areas in full or partial control irrigated areas   - ha
- drained areas in equipped wetland and i.v.b   - ha
- other drained areas   - ha
- total drained area with subsurface drains   - ha
- total drained area with surface drains   - ha
Flood-protected area   - ha
Area salinized by irrigation   - ha
Population affected by water-borne diseases   - inhabitants

Figure 1 - Distribution of the renewable water resources over the major hydrological zones (total: 30 km³/year)

Figure 2 - Water withdrawal (total: 11.05 km³ in 1 992)

Figure 3 - Distribution of the water managed areas (total: 1 258 200 ha in 1989)

Figure 4 - Origin of irrigation water f/p (total 1 093 200 ha in 1989)

Figure 5 - Irrigation techniques f/p (total: 1 093 200 ha in 1989)

Figure 6 - Irrigated crops f/p (total: 1 073 000 ha in 1990)

Figure 7 - Evolution of the areas of the large schemes



Irrigation is a strategic sector in Morocco. The water managed areas, in total about 1.26 million ha, represent only 17% of the cultivated area, but 76% of the irrigation potential area estimated at 1.65 million ha. Spate irrigation covers 165 000 ha, the remaining 1.09 million ha being full or partial control irrigation schemes (Figure 3), of which about two-thirds are irrigated by surface water (Figure 4). In 1995, about 7 000 ha were estimated to be irrigated by untreated wastewater, using about 60 million m³/year. Surface irrigation is the principal irrigation technique, sprinkler irrigation being practiced only on a few large schemes (Figure 5). Cereals are the major irrigated crops (Figure 6).

Large schemes

Since the 1960s emphasis has been put on the construction of dams and on the development of large schemes (referred to as 'grande hydraulique') (Figure 7). The schemes (with areas > 30 000 ha) are managed in a decentralized manner by the ORMVA. In total there are nine schemes over a total area of 431 650 ha in 1989 and 496 000 ha in 1993. Sprinkler irrigation is practiced on 23.5% of the ORMVA schemes.

The agricultural investments code of 1969 (currently under revision) defines the contribution of the farmers to the costs of the equipment and to the operation and maintenance charges of the irrigation network. The annual operation costs of the large schemes vary from $US 6 to 12/ha, and the maintenance cost of the external equipment from $US 6 to 17/ha. Energy costs represent a large part of the total costs. Sprinkler irrigation has an extra cost of $US 144/ha due to the energy needed.

Medium and small schemes

In addition to the above areas covered by the large schemes, there are about 826 550 ha of medium and small schemes (referred to as 'petite et moyenne hydraulique'), including the spate irrigation area. Out of this total area, 416 550 ha are located within the zones managed by the ORMVA (Figure 8). About 397 000 ha are irrigated by perennial water, 265 000 ha by seasonal water and 165 000 ha by spate water (Figure 9). The schemes in the mountains mostly use springwater, distributed by gravity.

In all schemes, the water distribution is based on rotating turns. The measurement unit most frequently used in surface irrigation is the 'farm stream', which corresponds to a discharge of 30 litres/sec. This unit also forms the basis for the dimensions of the canals in the large schemes.


The Superior Council of Water and Climate (Conseil supérieur de l'eau et du climat) is the principal institution involved in the water resources management subsector. It has the mandate to coordinate the development of the water resources by examining the development policies of the sector, approving the regional master plans related to the development of the water resources (prepared by the Directorate of Rural Equipment), resolving conflicts over the allocation of the water resources and establishing policies for water quality conservation. The General Directorate for Hydraulics (DGH or Direction générale de l'hydraulique) is in charge of the secretariat of the Council and brings together the main services concerned in this sector, elected representatives, socioprofessional organizations, local authorities and representatives of the different types of water users.

Figure 8 - Distribution of the water managed areas (total: 1 258 200 ha in 1989)

Figure 9 - Distribution of the small and medium schemes according to water availability (total: 826 550 ha in 1989)

The main organizations involved in the drinking water supply subsector are:

The main organizations involved in the irrigated agriculture sector are:

On the 20 September 1995, a new Water Law became effective.


The surface water resources are limited and must be saved in order to be able to satisfy the water needs for drinking, industrial and agricultural purposes in the 21st century. While globally the water demand is satisfied, certain regions already suffer from water scarcity, especially during dry years.

The multiplication of the number of dams is one way chosen to increase water availability. Siltation of dams is a problem, at present estimated at 50 million m³ per year. The capacity already lost in 1990 was estimated at 800 million m³, which is 7% of total capacity. A programme for the protection of dams against siltation has been set up. Another way chosen to increase water availability is increasing groundwater extraction. However the cost of groundwater extraction is very high and a number of aquifers are already over-exploited. Government policies are moving towards demand management.

A National Irrigation Programme for the year 2000 (PNI 2000 or Programme national d'irrigation en 2000) was adopted in 1992, with the following objectives:

Land ownership, which is characterized by very small properties (< 5 ha), land fragmentation, the absence of land ownership deeds and security, is being reviewed together with its implications for schemes and resources management.


AIGR [Amicale des ingénieurs du génie rural]. 1991. Annuaire 1990 du Génie rural.

BRGM/SOGREAH/SCET/CINAM. 1991. Etude du schéma directeur national d'approvisionnement en eau potable des populations rurales. Mission d'évaluation globale de la situation actuelle d'AEP du milieu rural, PNUD.

Conseil supérieur de l'eau. 1991 Aménagement des bassins versants et protection des barrages contre l'envasement.

Conseil supérieur de l'eau. 1993. Aménagement hydro-agricole: situation actuelle et perspectives.

Direction des statistiques. 1994. Annuaire statistique du Maroc 1993.

FAO-CP. 1996. Maroc: Programme d'approvisionnement groupé en eau potable. Rapport de preparation, 2 volumes. Rome. Report N° 96/062-CP-MOR.

Jellali, Mohammed. 1996. Développement des ressources en eau au Maroc: situation actuelle et perspectives. Direction générale de l'hydraulique, Ministère des travaux publics.

Lahlou, O. 1988. L'aménagement hydro-agricole, cas du périmètre irrigué marocain.

Nadifi, K. and Wahabi, R. 1993. Water resources in Morroco: the state of art and future prospects. Communication presented at the 'Symposium regional sur l'utilisation et la conservation des ressources en eau'.

SCET-AGRI&GERSAR. 1987. The Moroccan irrigation potential.

SCET-AGRI&GERSAR/World Bank/UNDP/French Government. 1984. Study on options and investment priorities in irrigation development. Moroccan country case study, 2 volumes.

UNDP. 1985. Options and investment priorities in irrigation development. Report No. MOR/SR2.

World Bank. 1993. Morocco irrigated areas agricultural services project. Report No. 11947MOR.

World Bank. 1995. Le secteur de l'eau au Maroc. Report No. 12649-MOR.

minimppv.gif (940 bytes)minimtoc.gif (878 bytes)minimpnx.gif (858 bytes)