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Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture


The General Water Authority (GWA) was responsible for water resources management since its establishment in 1972. In 2012 a ministry was created, the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), which combines all institutions dealing with water at national level, including the GWA:

  • The GWA is responsible for the management of conventional water, both surface water and groundwater, but not desalinated water, wastewater or water from the GMRP. It is in charge of water resource assessment and monitoring, and supervision of irrigation and drainage projects within Libya. It comprises six General Directorates: Planning; Follow-up and Statistics; Water Resources; Dams, Irrigation and Drainage; Soils; and Finance and Administration. At regional level the GWA has five branches.
  • The Great Manmade River Authority (GMRA), established in 1983, deals with the execution of the GMRP and management of its water.
  • The Great Manmade River Water Utilization Authority (GMRWUA), established in 1994, oversees the use of water transported by the GMRP for agricultural purposes.
  • The General Company for Water and Wastewater (GCWW) was established in 2008 for operation and maintenance of the water supply and sanitation systems. At regional level the GCWW has fifteen branches.
  • The General Company for Water Desalination (GCWD), supplying desalinated water, was established in 2007 and was previously under the Ministry of Electricity. It oversees desalination plants that are not thermal, i.e. non-thermal and non-power desalination plants.

In addition, there are several other ministries:

  • The Environment General Authority is a semi-autonomous organ, reporting directly to the office of the Prime Minister and setting the limits for contamination level in both drinking water and effluents. It also monitors water quality.
  • The Ministry of Housing and Utilities implements water supply and sanitation plans, through its Housing and Infrastructures Board (HIB).
  • The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal and Marine Wealth oversees agricultural activities and land use. According to its land use projections and corresponding water requirements, water shares for the sector are negotiated with the MWR.
  • The Ministry of Energy and Electricity manages all power stations employing thermal desalination plants.

Water management

In the 1990s, a strategy for irrigation management transfer was proposed. However, it also highlighted that the complex water distribution system (through the GMRP) requires significant operation and maintenance skills that are lacking locally. The institutional structures of the Libyan society also required a complete change to allow for community-based institutions. However, this strategy was never implemented.


The water pricing strategy is based on the fact that water is a common good and that all citizens share it for different uses. As a result, tariffs differ according the uses and are subsidized by the state, in particular for the most vulnerable users. Despite the fact that water tariffs cover only a third of the total cost of water production, the recovery rate is low, also due to an irregular and not always existent billing system. Since independence the state also finances all infrastructure projects, both construction and operation and maintenance (MWR and CEDARE, 2014).

The 1994 resolution n.218 set the water pricing for the first phase of the GMRP with high subsidies for agriculture and municipalities: 0.048 Libyan dinar (LYD)/m for agricultural use, 0.080 LYD/m for urban use, and 0.796 LYD/m for industrial use. The total cost of the GMRP water in 2011 is 0.235 LYD/m (0.194 US$/m), including 0.089 LYD/m (0.073 US$/m) for operational cost and 0.146 LYD/m (0.12 US$/m) of capital cost (Abdudayem and Scott, 2014).

At present, farmers are only charged for the cost of energy used for water production and energy is also subsidized (CEDARE, 2014).

Policies and legislation

The first Water Law of Libya dates back to 1965 and aimed to regulate the exploitation of water resources. It declares water as a common good. It was superseded by the more comprehensive 1982 Water Law (Law n.3), which designated water as a public property that should be protected by all. However, shallow and deep wells are considered private and their ownership is attached to the corresponding land. This 1982 Water Law was further complemented then by laws, decrees and regulations in all domains, such as water ownership, usage, licensing for drilling, quality and management. In particular, decree n.790 in 1982 sets aquifer protection from overexploitation and pollution, and memo n.612 in 1993 regulates the water allocations from the GMRP. Practically, very little of this legislation has been implemented yet (FAO, 2009). Law n. 15 of 2003 on environmental protection and enhancement reinforces water quality protection and drinking standards.

The National Strategy for Integrated Water Resources Management (2000-2025) is the main guide on water management in Libya. It was formulated in 1999 and approved in May 2005 with the aim to stop water deficits and water quality deterioration in order to set a base for sustainable development. Operationalization is still to be formulated, but led to the National Program for Water Supply and Sanitation, aiming to provide access to safe water supply and sanitation to all Libyans through identification of all communities in need of reticulated systems, enhancement or upgrade of such systems. Finally, the National Strategy for Sustainable Development was formulated in 2008.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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