Algeria is seeing the specter of water stress recede. Between the end of May and the beginning of June, after months of drought, the rain finally fell. But the deliverance has a bitter taste: according to the report communicated by the civil protection, at least eight people died because of the bad weather. Significant material damage was also recorded, particularly in Tipaza, about sixty kilometers west of Algiers, where one hundred and twenty-two families were relocated following the collapse of their homes.
“It’s not the rain that kills, but the anarchic constructions near the beds [des fleuves]the fragility of the buildings and the lack of awarenessdespairs Amar, a fifty-year-old from Algiers, a civil servant in a state-owned company. The same scenario repeats itself every year and yet we are never prepared. Our drains [les ouvertures le long des trottoirs servant à évacuer les eaux de ruissellement vers les égouts] are still clogged as if we had learned nothing from previous dramas. »
In 2001, floods and mudslides caused by torrential rains left 781 dead and a hundred missing in Bab El-Oued, according to official figures. But the disasters caused by excess rainfall are now less worrying than the lack of water. According to the American think tank World Resources Institute, Algeria is one of the countries in the world most exposed to water stress.
“Since 2015, winters and springs have had very little rain in Algeria, with the exception of the period November 2017 to April 2018 when rainfall was above average. (…) We have accumulated deficits in the refills of soils, aquifers and dams which have been in great demand both for irrigation and for the supply of drinking water”recalls Malek Abdesselam, doctor in hydrogeology and director of the water laboratory at the University of Tizi-Ouzou, in an interview given in May to the news site ASD.
Recurring water cuts
The problem is such that the mosques of the country had been summoned, Saturday, April 29, by the ministry of religious affairs to perform the prayer of request for rain (“salât al-istisqâ”). The same petition had already been made in October and December 2022.
Faced with these shortages, the authorities are betting on the development of seawater desalination plants. factories are already operational and 6 others will be commissioned by 2030.
A drinking water supply plan to ration the use of reserves was also introduced in 2021. This device, which limits the use of tap water to a few hours a day, concerns the capital and its surroundings. But other wilayas (prefectures) have been affected by recurring cuts.
After the rains at the end of May, the Minister of Hydraulics and Infrastructure, Taha Derbal, assured the Council of Ministers that the filling rate of 29 dams – out of the 81 in the country – had increased in 17 wilayas. . Without providing more details, a press release issued after the council also mentioned the rise in the level of groundwater in certain interior areas following the latest rainfall.
“Despite the damage, we should be grateful”says an Algiers taxi driver, scolding a customer who complains of bad weather. “We hope that the supply plan will be lifted or at least lightened. Today, water runs through my faucet once every two days. I hope that won’t be the case this summer.”, he adds. Due to the heat wave, consumption increases between July and August. “But with this rationing plan, we can’t even swim freely because we are afraid of not finding water when we return from the beach”Plague Selma, resident of the Caroubier district.