A critical assessment of groundwater governance in Tunisia

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More than 40% of irrigation water currently used in Tunisia is provided by groundwater aquifers, most of which are in a critical state of depletion due to its overexploitation during the last three decades. This paper provides a critical assessment of groundwater management in Tunisia based on interviews with key officials from central and regional administrations, in addition to farmers' questionnaires regarding attitudes and perceptions about different groundwater management instruments. Even though there is a consistent official groundwater management strategy in Tunisia, its enforcement is still problematic. Many regulatory and incentive instruments were adopted to manage groundwater but their effect was limited, partly due to the weak implementation capacities of the regional and local water administrations. Moreover, most farmers are not aware about the critical situation of this common pool resource and self-regulation initiatives are almost absent. From this assessment, we mainly conclude that the remaining activities for enhancing groundwater governance in Tunisia needs to rely on two main axes. The first is related to the improvement of administrative performances, particularly those for horizontal coordination of groundwater. The second is about investing in enhancing social capital supporting institutional changes; which is particularly necessary for the promotion of self-regulation initiatives.

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