Water of the Middle East and North Africa

Water Management in Morocco

Water management in Morocco
Photo 1: Essaouira, Morocco. (Source: Akram Alhadi, Flickr)

Laws and regulations

Legal framework

The passing of Law 10-95 in 1995 was a major breakthrough in Moroccan water policy. The law’s main objective was to rationalize water use, provide universal access to the resource, reduce disparities between cities and villages and ensure water security across the country. The law’s other stated principles include:

1) Water as a limited resource and public good;

2) Regulation of the development, distribution and sale of potable water;

3) Improved agricultural water development and use;

4) Prevention of illegal water resource development or conduct that causes water pollution.

The institutional organization is based on three levels, including the major stakeholders involved in the water sector (Figure 1).[1]

With regards to the implementation of the PNE, the body of relevant legislation and regulations continues to be strengthened (Table 1), notably with the adoption in August 2016 of a new Water Act (No. 36-15) that pursues the objectives of Law 10-95, with a view to guaranteeing the right to water. Thus, this new law introduced reforms aimed primarily at consolidating and strengthening decentralized, integrated and participatory management and planning of water resources, strengthening consultation and coordination bodies and organizations through the establishment of river basin councils and legal foundations to diversify supply through the use of unconventional water resources including desalinated seawater, implementing water-related information systems, strengthening the institutional framework and mechanisms for the protection and conservation of water resources, and strengthening financial instruments for the development of the water sector based on the principle of user pays/polluter pays.[2]

Table 1: Key water-related policies and regulations. Sources: MADFORWATER and World Bank.

YearName of policy/regulationKey facts
1969Law 1-69-25• Hydro-agricultural installations • Relationship state – agricultural water users (rights and obligations) • Financial structure of investment • Bases of water pricing for agricultural use and conditions of irrigation distribution
1984Agricultural Investment CodeEstablishment of agricultural water user associations
1995Law 02-84 on water user associations• Emphasis on integrated water resources management • Financial instruments under the user pays/polluter pays principle • Economic value of water, linked to national and regional solidarity • Watershed management principles
1998Law 10-95Authorizing the transfer of public enterprises to the private sector
1999Law 34-98States that water and sewerage tariff changes are subject to controls until mid-2006
2002Law 06-99 on competition and price freedomGoverns the organization and operation of local governments, and spells out their responsibilities for potable water supply, sanitation and wastewater treatment.
2005Law 78-00Improve living conditions and protect the environment while achieving a 60% treatment rate for collected wastewater and an 80% rate for connections to the sanitation network in urban areas by 2020
2007National Sanitation Programme Conversion of 550,000 ha to localized irrigation in the coming 15 years
2008National Irrigation Water Saving Programme • Pillar I: High added value agriculture • Pillar II: Joint development of smallholdings in different areas • Crosscutting initiatives: Modernization of irrigation and increased efficiency • Public-private partnership (PPP) management of irrigated areas; massive conversion to localized irrigation
2009Green Morocco Plan• Pillar I: Water demand management (WDM), (localized irrigation according to the National Irrigation Water Saving Programme, water efficiency, water tariffs) • Pillar II: Development and management of water supply (mobilization of conventional and non-conventional water resources, water transfers) • Pillar III: Water resources protection
2014National Water Strategy• Water demand management • Water reuse and treatment
2015National Water Plan Promotion of treated water reuse. Objective: 325 MCM/yr reused by 2030
2016National Wastewater Reuse Plan • Access to drinking water • Desalination of seawater • Decentralization (river basin councils)

Policy framework

In 2009, Morocco launched the National Water Strategy and National Water Plan (PNE), which focus on the role of complementary water management actions to address water problems and achieve coordinated management of supply and demand, while ensuring an equitable distribution between rural and urban areas. Targets for both include:[3]


  • Construction of large and small dams;
  • Use of non-conventional water resources, such as the desalination of seawater (510 MCM/yr) and brackish water and the reuse of treated wastewater (325 MCM/yr);
  • Incentives for water saving in agriculture (through conversion of localized irrigation systems to drip irrigation covering 920,000 ha in 2030), drinking water, tourism and industry through an improved pipe network could yield water savings of up to 80% on average in 2020;
  • The preservation of groundwater resources through artificial recharge, setting limits on how much groundwater can be pumped;
  • Protecting dams from loss through structural erosion via upstream renovation;
  • Protecting against extreme events, particularly floods and droughts;
  • Substitution of overexploited groundwater tables with surface water, including via the reforestation of 200,000 ha by 2020.

Key governmental and non-governmental organizations

Multiple players are involved at both the central level (ministries, secretariats, National Office for Electricity and Potable Water); and the local level (municipally owned public operators called régies, private concessionaires, irrigation operators, river basin agencies, municipalities). The main sector organizations and their functions are described below.

Institutional framework

-The Ministry of Equipment, Transport, Logistics and Water is responsible for initiating, promoting and coordinating the protection of water resources, pollution abatement and legislation enforcement. In addition, it is responsible for environmental control, auditing and reporting, including public awareness and participation regarding water resources and the environment. The ministry’s Water Department has been assigned the executive role regarding water issues.

-The Supreme Council for Water and Climate is an inter-ministerial consultation forum established in 1980 (previously called the High Council for Water) to reinforce horizontal and vertical coordination among the different actors, including ministries, public agencies (of drinking water, irrigation, hydroelectricity) and water users, as well as non-governmental stakeholders. The council is in charge of assessing the national strategy on climate change and its impact on water resources.

-River basin agencies (RBAs) were established according to Law 10-95. Their mission includes: managing and regulating water resources, as well as developing and supplying water, monitoring and regulating water use and quality, and planning for water-related emergencies such as flood control within their respective basins. There are nine RBAs (Figure 1), established as nodal agencies for administration at the regional level. According to Law 10-95, RBAs are legally and financially independent as they are funded by users’ fees. They are responsible for preparing river basin management plans based on integrated water resources management principles.[4] Their other duties include authorizing water abstractions and discharges and maintaining a public register; collecting fees for abstraction and effluent discharges; providing financing and technical assistance for water pollution prevention; ensuring efficient water use; monitoring water quality; enforcing laws related to water resource protection; setting up an emergency response system; and promoting public awareness about water resource management. The RBAs cooperate with the agencies under the supervision of Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Fisheries (MAPM) : regional offices of agricultural development (ORMVA) at the level of large irrigated districts and the agriculture provincial directorates outside areas covered by ORMVA.

water management in Morocco
Figure 1: Major stakeholders in the water sector.[5]

-The Ministry of the Interior is involved in water management through the Water and Wastewater Directorate (DEA) and the General Directorate of Local Authorities (DGCL). The DEA assists local communities with water and sanitation issues. It also plays an active role in planning, implementing and supporting the operations of sewerage infrastructure and wastewater treatment, as well as monitoring the performance of the regional authorities and municipalities. Municipalities are responsible for water and wastewater services and for choosing the management options (in this case, for wastewater). The DGCL supervises municipalities and monitors communal utilities.

-The General Directorate of Hydraulics (DGH)[6] is the lead agency for water resource planning and management. It is responsible for developing water resources for all uses, including major dam construction and operation. The DGH comprises:

(a) Directorate of Water Research and Planning, responsible for the study, planning and monitoring of surface water and groundwater resources;

(b) Directorate of Hydraulic Works, traditionally in charge of the planning, construction and operation of dams and reservoirs.

The role of the DGH is being redefined, with some of its responsibilities being transferred to the RBAs and National Office for Electricity and Potable Water (ONEE).

-Other ministries. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, for example, is tasked with supervising irrigation management. The Ministry of Health is mainly responsible for drinking water quality control and has an important role in the development of water-related standards and laws. The Ministry of Finance oversees the fiscal aspects of public utilities and the contracting of concessions, as well as tariff adjustment proposals.

-Local municipalities. The communal charter of 1976 gives municipalities full responsibility for the management of drinking water and sanitation services. Municipalities may, therefore, manage these services themselves, create autonomous communal utilities or assign the management to ONEE or private concessionaires.

Service providers

-The National Office for Electricity and Potable Water (ONEE) is a financially autonomous public electricity, water and sewerage enterprise. It is considered as the major national water producer and, when rural water supply is included, also the dominant national water distributor. ONEE plays an important role in planning and executing the government’s strategic water and electricity goals. For the water sector, ONEE’s responsibilities include potable water planning and security at a national level, providing potable water supply services in medium and small towns on behalf of the local municipalities and wastewater services.

-Private companies. The four private concessions encompass water, wastewater and electricity services. A delegating authority, comprising representatives from local municipalities and supported in technical issues by the Ministry of the Interior, supervise the concessionaires.

-Regional authorities. There are 13 regional authorities, which are supervised by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Finance. The regulations governing their roles were set out in Decree No. 2-64-394 of 1964. ONEE and the regional authorities each service some 30% of the total number of subscribers to water services in urban areas, and private companies service the remaining 40%.[7], [8], [9]

Financing of the water sector

The water sector is financed by the government with the support of several donors. Morocco’s key development partners in the water sector are: the African Development Bank, World Bank, Islamic Development Bank, Japanese Bank for International Cooperation, European Investment Bank, European Union, French Development Agency, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit and European donor countries (such as Belgium and Spain), Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Japanese International Cooperation Agency, the United States Agency for International Development and the Canadian Council for International Cooperation.[10]

Role of the private sector in water management

In order to recover the cost of water supply, the government has granted autonomy to public urban water supply agencies and allowed the privatization of urban water supply in cities such as Casablanca, Rabat, Tetouan and Tangier. Similarly, a revolving fund to provide loans to urban users both for water meter installation and for retrofitting water appliances is an innovative way of having users self-finance urban water conservation.[11]

[1] Choukr-Allah R, 2011. ‘Comparative study between Moroccan water strategies and WFD’. In: Junier S et al. (eds.). Dialogues on Mediterranean water challenges: Rational water use, water price versus value and lessons learned from the European Water Framework Directive.
[2] Afilal C, 2017. Water security in Morocco.
[3] Houzir M, Mokass M and Schalatek L, 2016. Climate Governance and the Role of Climate Finance in Morocco.
[4] Choukr-Allah R, 2011. ‘Comparative study between Moroccan water strategies and WFD’. In: Junier S et al. (eds.). Dialogues on Mediterranean water challenges: Rational water use, water price versus value and lessons learned from the European Water Framework Directive.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Bakri H, 2009. ‘Water Services in Morocco’. Potable Water Services in Morocco – China – Austria – Iran.
[7] World Bank, 2004. Kingdom of Morocco: Recent Economic Developments in Infrastructure (REDI), Water Supply and Sanitation Sector.
[8] Netherlands Enterprise Agency, 2018. Business Opportunities Report for Reuse of Wastewater in Morocco.
[9] United Nations, 2014. Morocco: Environmental Performance Reviews, series no. 38.
[10] African Development Bank, 2006. Kingdom of Morocco: Ninth Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Project.
[11] United Nations, 2014. Morocco: Environmental Performance Reviews, series no. 38.