Aquifer Contracts. A Means to Solving Groundwater Over-exploitation in Morocco?

GRIPP Case Profile - Issue 01

  • Alvar Closas Researcher - Groundwater Management and Policy at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Cairo, Egypt (
  • Karen G Villholth Principal Researcher and Sub-Theme Leader (Groundwater and Underground Solutions) at International Water Management Institute, Pretoria, South Africa (


The Moroccan government has used aquifer contracts as a management tool to control groundwater depletion. The first aquifer contract was signed in 2006 for the Souss region as a technical and financial non-binding contract between stakeholders and the government. The contract contemplated specific measures to be implemented across the Souss Massa-Draa Basin, including water fees and restriction of cultivated areas. This GRIPP Case Profile reviews the evolution of aquifer contracts in Morocco and the case of the Souss, examining the various social, political and institutional challenges surrounding its endorsement and implementation. Despite its innovative approach as a multi-user platform aiming to consolidate specific groundwater management activities on the ground, the voluntary nature of the aquifer contract limited the number of participating stakeholders. Also, the lack of institutional capacity and clarity of roles under the decentralization process prohibited its oversight and enforcement. The Case Profile illustrates the complexity of groundwater management within a context of increased resource dependence, and the necessity to enhance and sustain inclusive participatory arrangements. In order to improve the effectiveness of aquifer contracts, Morocco needs to solidify its decentralization of groundwater management, and clear up environmental, agricultural and irrigation policy inconsistencies. Better data to understand and manage groundwater resources in an integrated manner are also needed, as well as proper oversight and binding measures that encourage transparency and adherence to the water law.

GRIPP Case Profile Series