Water efficiency, productivity and sustainability in the NENA regions (WEPS-NENA)


In Algeria, the WEPS project is implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources and Water Security and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and is guided by the multidisciplinary team of the initiative on water scarcity which brings together the main stakeholders interested in water issues (see country team and partners).

Context and History

Algeria is located in the north of the African continent, covering an area of 2 381 741 km2, which is considered the largest country in Africa and the ninth largest in the world. With more than 1 200 km of coastline, Algeria is open to the Mediterranean Sea to the north and is located between six countries: Tunisia and Libya to the east, Morocco and the Western Sahara to the west, and Mauritania, Mali and Niger to the south. Algeria includes two mountain ranges, the Tellian Atlas and the Saharan Atlas. The highest point of Algeria is located in the Hoggar mountain range with an altitude of 2 918 meters (Mount Tahat).

In 2007, the cultivated agricultural area was nearly 8.5 million ha, mainly in the more fertile north of the country, while pasture and rangeland occupied 33 million ha. The current area of irrigated agricultural land (2019) is 1.43 million ha.

Three strongly contrasting climatic areas characterize the territory:

- The coastline and the mountainous massifs occupy 4 percent of the total area and have a third of the country's cultivated land, which is highly threatened by the excessive concentration of population and activities. These lands are fragile and not very resistant to erosion. The climate is Mediterranean, with very heavy rainfall in winter causing severe erosion. In summer, rainfall is extremely scarce and the heat is very strong. Rainfall can reach 1 600 mm/year on the reliefs, but is irregular from one year to the next and unevenly distributed.

- The high plateaus, which occupy about 8.4 percent of the total area, are characterized by a semi-arid climate (rainfall between 100 and 400 mm/year). The process of desertification is important because of the drought, the fragility of soils subject to wind erosion, the weakness of water resources, and the intensive practice of agro-pastoralism.

- The Sahara, an arid desert area (average rainfall less than 100 mm/year), covers 87 percent of the territory and its cultivated areas are very limited to about 100 000 ha. There is extreme climatic conditions and very strong thermal amplitudes.

For the whole country, the average rainfall is 89 mm/year. Potential evapotranspiration varies from 800 mm in the northeast of the country to over 2 200 mm in the southeast. The renewable resources represent 11 670 million m3/year (surface and groundwater). The country is experiencing water stress with less than 300 m3/capita/year (for a population of 43 million in 2019). Algeria has less than 30 percent of the theoretical scarcity threshold set by the World Bank at 1000 m3 /inhabitant/year. The storage capacity represents 8 300 million m3 (in 2014). In 2012, water withdrawals reached 8 425 million m3, including 4 800 million m3 of surface water and 3 000 million m3 of groundwater. Seawater desalination has increased considerably in recent years from a production capacity of 1.9 million m3/day in 2014 to 2.11 million m3/day in 2020, or nearly 770 million m3/year, by 11 large stations thus contributing to securing the supply of drinking water to coastal cities. Agriculture accounts for 12.4 percent of GDP (2019) with 10.4 percent of the working population. The country imports essential products such as cereals, milk powder, pulses and fodder. Agricultural exports are mainly dated, and recently agro-industrial products.



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