Adapting to Climate Change through Improved Watershed Management and Payment for Environmental Services in Morocco's Tensift Basin
Morocco's growing urban population is placing a strain on the country's limited water supply. With greater demand for water in agriculture, industry, and tourism, the country must identify new approaches to managing this resource. This research project will offer evidence-based strategic guidance to direct integrated water resource management. The Tensift Basin in central Morocco originates in the Atlas Mountains, flowing into the Haouz Plain, and onward to the Atlantic Ocean. The semi-arid mountainous zone is home to 3 million people, one-third of whom reside in the city of Marrakesh. The remaining residents live in smaller towns and rural areas. Demand for water to satisfy their growing needs is increasing, while supply is constrained by sedimentation of dams and overexploitation of groundwater resources. Other problems, such as ecosystem degradation and climate change impacts, are compromising water quality and availability, increasing the risk of droughts and floods in the watershed. Given these pressures, this project seeks to inform changes to the current approach to integrated water resources management. The objective is to increase people's capacity to adapt to environmental changes. L'École nationale forestière d'ingénieurs, based in Salé, Morocco, will lead a multidisciplinary research team. It will assess challenges to water availability and watershed management in the Tensift Basin, including biophysical, ecological, climatic, and socio-economic. It will use models to estimate future water resource patterns to see who is most vulnerable and which sectors are most exposed. Based on its analysis, the team will work with stakeholders to consider potential adaptation options. One option is to offer payment for environmental services to encourage upstream communities to safeguard important ecological functions. This approach will help ensure water supply and prevent flood risk for downstream water users. This project will equip government, local civil society organizations, and communities with a better understanding of the factors affecting socio-economic and biophysical vulnerability in the watershed. Researchers will work closely with communities, including women's groups, to explore options for improving watershed management. Together, they will develop a strategic plan based on findings and stakeholder priorities that will include adaptation priorities within integrated water resource management. The team will also share results at national and international conferences, combined with publication in peer-reviewed journals.