EBRD and ONEE bring clean water to Morocco under lockdown

By Nibal Zgheib

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A new water treatment plant provides access to drinking water for 140,000 people

The coronavirus pandemic is putting an unprecedented strain not only on the health sector and the economy, but on water resources too.

Reliable water supplies play an important role in combating the spread of the virus. In countries where water is in short supply, such as Morocco, simple acts of hygiene can place the infrastructure under considerable strain

Realising that drinking water infrastructure in urban and rural areas urgently needed improving and expanding, in order to cope with this rise in consumption, the National Office for Electricity and Drinking Water (ONEE) in Morocco sped up the construction of a water treatment plant funded by the EBRD. 

The new facility has a capacity of 250 litres per second. And thanks to a 40 km extension of pipes, the network is providing drinking water to over 140,000 people in the city of Ouarzazate, southern central Morocco, and neighbouring villages.

This expansion will improve people’s health by allowing them to enjoy clean drinking water and practice basic hygiene. It will also help to improve the lives of many citizens, in particular women, who represent the majority of those sourcing water, a laborious and time-consuming undertaking.

Morocco started implementing strict public health measures in mid-March after the first Covid-19 infections had been detected in the country. Since the imposition of the lockdown, ONEE has been able to maintain a continuous supply of drinking water in the country, helping to limit the spread of the virus.

The Ouarzazate project is part of a €65 million investment programme financed by the EBRD to improve the drinking water supply to three medium-sized Moroccan cities and 260 rural communities in the regions of Azilal, Ben Guerir and Ouarzazate, including a nationwide programme for performance improvement. 

The investment is supported by a €4.5 million comprehensive technical assistance programme jointly designed by the EBRD and ONEE to address corporate governance issues, and funded by the Federal Ministry of Finance of Austria, the EBRD’s SEMED Multi-Donor Account (Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Taipei China and the United Kingdom).

Water is life, the old saying goes. Never was this more true.

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