Water of the Middle East and North Africa

Shared Water Resources in Algeria

Oasis in Biskra Shared Water Resources in Algeria
Photo 1: River in a Oasis in Biskra. (Source: Gueddim, AdobeStock)

Shared surface and groundwater resources

Algeria shares five aquifers with its neighbours: Errachidia with Morocco, Tin-Sérririne with Niger, Air Christalline with Mali and Niger, Taoudéni with Mali and Mauritania, and the North-Western Sahara Aquifer System (NWSAS) with Tunisia and Libya (see map 1) .[1] The NWSAS is managed through a permanent tripartite consultation mechanism hosted by the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS). The main objective is to coordinate the joint management of water resources in the NWSAS through ongoing work to improve understanding of the system and its exploitation. This is done through a steering committee made up of the bodies in charge of water resources in each of the three countries, which act as the national focal points; a coordination unit that is managed and hosted by the OSS; and an ad hoc scientific committee for evaluation and scientific orientation.

Disputed surface and groundwater resources

The two large overlapping aquifers in the south, the Complex Terminal and the Continental Interlayer, cover an area of 600,000 km2 and provide annually up to 40,000 BCM of water. This important groundwater source is part of one of the largest in the world. It is shared with Libya (20%) and Tunisia (10%). It has an operating capacity of 5 BCM/yr, but only 1.7 BCM/yr are exploited.[2] Algeria does not share any of its surface waters, giving it sovereignty over the management, exploitation and distribution of this resource.

Map 1: Water sources and infrastructure, highlighting North Sahara Aquifer System.

Treaties and agreements

The latest agreement related to the water sector was signed on 26 October 2017 with the European Union. Called the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA), the initiative aims to use new research and innovation approaches to improve water availability and sustainable agriculture production around the Mediterranean.[3] [4]

Under the auspices of the European Commission, the Belgian organizations La Société Wallonne Des Eaux and La Société Publique de Gestion de l’Eau partnered with the Algerian Agency for Integrated Water Resources Management to provide Algeria with tools to clarify the status of water resources, improve capacity, develop a national strategy to ensure water supply while preserving the sustainability of the resource.[5]

Other collaborations carried out within the framework of water distribution network improvements include a $1 billion agreement with France, Spain and Germany in pilot cities with high population density, growing demand and an old and leaky network.

[1] British Geological Survey, 2018. Africa Groundwater Atlas: Hydrogeology of Algeria.
[2] Zella L, 2007. L’eau: pénurie ou incurie. Office des Publications Universitaires, Algeria.
[3] Delegation of the European Union to Algeria, 2017. ‘L’Algérie scelle sa participation à l’initiative PRIMA’.
[4] Algerian Embassy in Brussels, 2017. L’Algérie signe l’accord international sur PRIMA.
[5] La Société Wallonne Des Eaux, 2017. L’Algérienne des Eaux s’appuie sur la SWDE créer son centre de formation.