TUNIS, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Tunisia is experiencing a stifling water crisis because of low rainfall and a drought for three years.
The water withdrawal per capita in Tunisia is fewer than 450 cubic meters, well below the absolute water scarcity threshold of 1,000 cubic meters, Central Director at the National Company of Water Exploitation and Distribution Abdessalem Saidi told the Tunis Afrique Presse.
This makes Tunisia a "very water-scarce country," he said, adding the average share of water per capita is expected to drop to fewer than 350 cubic meters by 2030.
Climate change is one of the causes of the water shortage. Studies predict that Tunisia's temperatures will increase by an average of 2.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, while the precipitation will decrease by about 14 percent, Jamel Labidi, former director general at the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries, said in an article published recently in the Tunisian news website Leaders.
"Agriculture is the sector with by far the largest water use and withdrawal ... as 80 percent of water resources in Tunisia are used for agriculture," Hammadi Habib, director general of the Office of Planning and Water Balances at the Ministry, said in a statement released recently on the Ministry's Facebook page.
For decades, Tunisia has pushed farmers to specialize in industrial crops for export. Most of these crops, such as strawberries, tomatoes, and watermelons are very water-intensive.
This specialized agriculture has replaced the traditional production that was intended to feed the local population.
Habib urged further measures to limit the water supply to farms to ensure sufficient drinking water for homes and businesses.
"In the light of the continuation of this current strategy, there will be no drinking water this August in many Tunisian provinces, including the capital Tunis, Sousse, Nabeul and Sfax," the ministry official warned.
According to the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights, millions of Tunisians face the specter of thirst for frequent water cuts by authorities.
Tunisian Observatory for Water recently issued a map of thirst for the year 2022, which included 2,299 reports related to water problems.
"This included 1,655 reports of water outages, 423 protests at problems in the water distribution service, and problems related to the deterioration of the quality of drinking water," Radia Al-Sameen, a project coordinator and researcher at the observatory, told Tunisian private TV Attesia on Jan. 10.
However, the use of non-conventional water resources, including desalinated water and treated water, helps save the limited conventional resources and could play an increasingly important role in satisfying the growing water requirements, according to Habib. ■