Numerous aquifers located under Sahara
By Mohand Ouali for Magharebia in Algiers – 07/02/06
Studies show that the Sahara aquifer basin is one of the largest in the world. It stretches across territory belonging to Algeria, Tunisia and Libya and is made up of two main deposits, the Terminal Complex and the Continental Intercalary. The two aquifer systems contain enough water to satisfy the needs of Algeria for 120 centuries at the current rate of consumption.
The groundwater deposits are already being tapped to satisfy the needs of agriculture, the oil industry and the general population. The most spectacular exploitation has been undertaken by the Libyans, who have built their famous artificial river pumping water from beneath the Sahara before sending it through pipelines to the land being irrigated.
As part of its land management policy, Algeria expects to develop the Saharan regions. The scarceness of the water supply is hampering its objectives, so it is now turning its attention to more intensive exploitation of the major dormant water resources lying hidden beneath the desert sands.
“Algeria has planned two projects”
To this end, . The first consists of sending water from the groundwater deposits under the In Salah region over a distance of 750km to Tamanrasset, situated further south. Nearly 50 billion dinars have been released to finance the work. Another project consists of sending Saharan underground water to the northern steppe regions to supply urban centres along with the new towns to be built there.
Experts are counselling caution in exploiting these resources, which will prove non-renewable if the pace of extraction is too fast. Another potential problem is pollution risks. A Maghrebian Charter was adopted in 1992 calling on Maghreb Union member states to work to protect the environment and to encourage sustainable development. As part of this, a Sahel and Sahara Observatory has identified extraction areas and vulnerable areas.
A co-operation mechanism allowing common management has also been put in place. Algeria, Libya and Tunisia, enjoy good co-operation leading to rational and non-confrontational management of this precious shared resource.
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