SASS Themes

Users’ problems 

Taking into account the diversity of the natural environment in the SASS region, the long experience of local communities with irrigated agriculture and the rootedness of the practiced farming systems, irrigation water in the SASS region faces massive challenges at the local scale, namely:  

  • Structural water shortage: Irrigated perimeters suffer a severe lack of irrigation water; a problem that undermines local economy and farmers’ incomes and threatens the sustainability of irrigated agriculture and soil quality.
  • An unfair distribution and waste of water resources: the miss management of water resources would inherently lead to a negative effect on irrigated agriculture.
  • A low valorisation of water resources in irrigation (inefficient irrigation systems and techniques, poor water quality…)

Decision-makers’ problems

The surveys conducted within the SASS project during its first phase (SASS I) have clearly indicated that the North Western Aquifer System evolved in a regressive manner at the quantitative as well as qualitative level. Given the extensive withdrawal of water in the SASS region, the looming risks entitle us to revisit the socio-economic development plans at the region. In fact, there are big question marks at the strategic as well as political level over the future development of the SASS communities and their livelihoods.

Main problems include:

  • Water pricing policies: how to stimulate and opt for an efficient use of water.
  • Irrigation water valorisation: most of the farming systems in the SASS region are inefficient at the economic level (low returns and low market production value), social (most of farmers prefer paid jobs and don’t rely on their own farms) and environmental (loss of fertility due to soil salinity and hydromorphy, loss of biodiversity…)
  • Expansion of the irrigated perimeters through the creation of new public and private, authorized or non-authorized lands, and the creation of new well drillings which led to the acceleration of the overuse pace of the SASS water reserve.
  • The introduction and construction of unpractical new agricultural systems with high water consumption and consequently an increase in water demand without any economic benefit.
  • Climate change:  problems like aridity, drought, and high temperature accompanied by a high water demand, and scorching heat waves.
  • The overuse of the SASS water resources to cover the needs for irrigation or other socio-economic sectors.
  •  Competition of other socio-economic sectors, namely industry and tourism.

All these problems represent obstacles that come against the elaboration of socioeconomic development strategies for the SASS communities.


In order to cope with these problems, it is deemed necessary to take some political measures, mainly:

  • Increase water supply: this option aims to narrow down the imbalance between water supply and water demand through the construction of well drillings, including the deep well drillings at the Intercalary Continental. This measure has been implemented by the three neighbour countries sharing the SASS (Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya) for the three last decades. However, this option is only efficient on the short-term and cannot resolve the fundamental problem of the unsustainability of water resources.
  • Water Demand management: it is important to react on two levels:
  1. Control the demand for water: pricing, reduction of water wastage, fight the extension of irrigated perimeters and non-authorized well drillings.
  2. Encourage the primary user (farmers) to save water and improve its efficiency in irrigation.


This option is based on the fact that the farmer is the main and only decision-maker in terms of optimising water consumption for a better and more production and less water consumption. 

The SASS III project was launched in order to illustrate the last option above with arguments derived from the results of the socio-economic survey (users’ behaviour) and the experimentations conducted in the demonstration pilots (a more efficient and performing irrigation).


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