Morocco Courts Private Sector’s Help for $28 Billion Water Plan

May 13, 2014 10:31 am ET

May 13 (Bloomberg) -- Morocco’s government is appealing to private investors to help finance a 230 billion-dirham ($28 billion) water plan that the North African country hopes will ease stress on its resources.

“Partnerships between public and private operators will be one way of financing the National Water Plan,” Hajar Dehhani, spokeswoman for the water ministry, said today in a phone interview.

“We will need 230 billion dirhams in investments by 2030. The state can’t mobilize such funds alone,” she said. The semi- official Le Matin newspaper said the plan would rely on financing to boost water companies’ contribution to the costs.

Morocco, where tourism has doubled since 2000, is prone to drought and heavily dependent on rainfall. Its agricultural industry relies on more traditional yet wasteful irrigation methods, employing almost 40 percent of the country’s 11 million workforce. Pressure on water resources in such places as Marrakesh led to clashes in 2012 over rising costs.

Farmers in the Souss region, the top source of Morocco’s citrus and tomato exports to Europe, now dig more than 100 meters (328 feet) deep for water compared with 10 meters in the 1980s.

The annual per capita water availability may fall to 500 cubic meters by as early as 2025 from 700 cubic meters last year after peaking at 2,500 cubic meters in 1960, Abdessalam Ziad, head of planning at the water ministry, said in January.

In December, General Affairs and Public Governance Minister Mohamed el-Ouafa told an OECD conference that the country is mulling a plan to build a 300-mile canal to divert water from the wetter north to supply drier regions.