Green Water Credits Pilot in Morocco

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The Sebou river rises amongst scattered lakes in the cool oak and cedar forests of Morocco’s Middle Atlas range. It runs north through overgrazed scrub and grassland of the Atlas foothills to meet the urban center of Fes. From there, it winds through one of the most populated areas of Morocco, supplying water to agriculture, horticulture, industry, and urban centers such as Meknes, Kenitra and Taza.

Competing claims in Sebou basin

In 2009, the Green Water Credit team selected the Sebou basin (an area of 40,000 km2 with six million inhabitants) to test the viability of the Green Water Credits concept. Severe erosion in the agricultural uplands produces sediment that collects in the downstream water reservoirs, and locally there is overexploitation of groundwater. Downstream there are competing claims from commercial users - irrigation, urban water utilities, hydropower generation and tourism. These activities are leading to increasing pressure on water availability.

Scenario and socio-economic studies

Using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), ISRIC and the GWC team analysed the impact of three potential green water management measures: stone lines, bench terraces and contour tillage. The team also carried out cost-benefit scenario studies and socio-economic studies, including a survey of the institutions and regulations involved in land and water issues in the Sebou basin. In December 2011, the main study results were presented at a workshop attended by stakeholders from the Moroccan government, companies and research organizations.

Three main conclusions were drawn:

Green water management will have a positive effect on reducing water shortage, increasing reservoir storage and improving hydropower generation.

Revenues from green water management could be as much as US $ 43 million per year for the five main sectors (rain-fed agriculture, irrigation, domestic, industry and hydropower) in the Sebou Basin.

The extra profits thus generated should be invested in a GWC fund to cover costs necessary to implement and maintain green water management. The fund can be used for a number of purposes including education and training of farmers and leaders, strengthening regional/local communities, and providing credits and equipment to farmers.

Steering committee for second phase

The Moroccan Agence du Bassin Hydraulique du Sebou (ABHS) will head a steering committee to coordinate the second phase of this Green Water Credits project, setting up a fund and program for the Bassin Ait Youb region. The committee consists of Moroccan stakeholders from government, research organizations and industry, including ONEP, Eaux & Forêts, ORMVA, SEEE, DRAs and DPAs.