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Tunisia faces water cuts amid severe drought, public frustration

The drought-hit North African country is imposing water rationing at night for the first time in its fourth dry year, which may increase social tension as Tunisians struggle with high inflation and a weak economy.
A Tunisian shepherd herds his sheep near the dry reservoir bed of El-Haouareb dam, located near Kairouan, some 100 miles south of Tunis, Tunisia, July 13, 2017.

TUNIS — Tunisia’s state water distribution company SONEDE has been cutting off drinking water at night in areas of the capital and other cities in the last two weeks. The extreme measure has been taken in response to Tunisia's unprecedented drought that is now in its fourth year.

Water supplies are being cut every night between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m., after SONEDE announced at the end of March it would introduce the limits with immediate effect.

The Ministry of Agriculture has also banned the use of potable water for irrigating farmland, watering green spaces, cleaning public areas and for washing cars until Sept. 30. Those who breach the decision will face a fine of between 60 Tunisian dinars to 1,000 dinars ($19.80 to $330) and imprisonment for a period ranging between six days and six months.

The continued lack of rain causing a severe water shortage appears to have led the authorities to reduce water consumption. Tunisian reservoirs are estimated at 1 billion cubic meters — 30% of their maximum capacity — due to scarcity of rain between September 2022 to mid-March 2023, according to Hamadi Habib, senior official in the Ministry of Agriculture.

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