Commenced in January 2007
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Groundwater deterioration Related Publications

1 Deterioration of Groundwater in Arid Environments: What Impact in Oasis Dynamics? Case Study of Tafilalet, Morocco

Authors: W. EL Khoumsi, A. Hammani, M. Kuper, A. Bouaziz

Abstract:

Oases are complex and fragile agro-ecosystems. They have always existed in environments characterized by an arid climate, scarcity of rainfall, high temperatures and high evaporation. These palms have grown up despite the severity of the physical characteristics thanks to the water's existence and irrigation practice. The oases are generally spread along non-perennial rivers (wadis), shallow water table or deep artesian groundwater. However, the sustainability of oasis system is threatened by water scarcity and declining of water table levels particularly in arid areas. Located in the southern east area of Morocco, Tafilalet plain encompasses one of the largest palm groves in the kingdom. In recent years, this area has become increasingly threatened by water shortage and has seen a sharp deterioration under the effect of several combined anthropogenic and climatic factors. The Bayoud disease, successive years of drought, Hassan Addakhil dam construction etc are all factors that have affected both water and phoenicicole heritage of the area. The objective of this study is to understand the interaction between qualitative and quantitative degradation of groundwater resources, and the palm grove dynamics, while reviewing the assumption that groundwater resources contribute in a direct way to the conservation of this oasis agroecosystem. A historical analysis tracing both the oasis dynamics and the groundwater evolution has been established. Data were collected from satellite images, surveys with different actors (farmers, Regional Office for Agricultural Development, Basin agency...). They were complemented by a synthesis of numerous technical reports in the area. The results showed that within 40 years, the thickness of the groundwater table has dropped in 50 %. Along with this, there has been a downsizing of date palm by 50 %. Areas with higher groundwater level were the least affected by the downsizing. So we can say that the shallow groundwater contribute significantly and directly to the water supply of date palm through its root system, and largely ensures the oasis ecosystem sustainability.

Keywords: Arid Environments, date palm, Oasis dynamics, Groundwater deterioration

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