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Project Applicability of Economic Elements of the EU Water Framework Directive to the Sebou Basin

The Sebou river, one of the major rivers in Morocco, covers around 40,000 km2 with a population of 5.2 million people, 53% of which live in rural areas. From its source, it flows North to Fés and then East to the Atlantic Ocean; the basin covers the regions of Fès-Boulemane and Meknès-Tafilalet. The Sebou plays an important socio-economic role in the country being its basin in a major region for cultivating olives, rice, wheat, sugar beets, and grapes.

However, it suffers from water quantity and quality problems due to unsustainable and uncoordinated human activities. Massive pollution due to agriculture and flanking cities and factories goes along with over-abstraction and low efficiency of water use for irrigation, which accounts for 89% of water needs. Sebou river’s aquatic ecosystems and associated biodiversity are put at high risk. The natural vulnerability of the area is magnified by the magnitude and extent of interventions; it is estimated that the increasing degree of environmental pressure has reduced Sebou's water discharge (approx. 70%) and sediment flux (approx. 95%) with a dramatic impact on the estuarine zone. In such a context, the Sebou river basin agency is required to play a crucial role, but current legal provisions regulating its functions leave a wide room for interpretation undermining its capacity.

The ecological importance of the Sebou basin is outstanding, with 39 important wetlands (5 of which are classified as international Ramsar sites), 17 national Sites of Biological and Ecological Interest (Sites d'Intérêt Biologique et Ecologique - SIBEs) and 2 national parks. Several of these ecological hotspots are located in the upper part of the basin, while the lower part the river (through a man-made connection) feeds the Merja Zerga lagoon which is one of the most important wetlands of Morocco, particularly for migratory birds.

Project number n/a
Geographical coverage Morocco,
Budget (in €) 0
Programme WWF MEDPO
Web site

Test the applicability of the different economic elements of the EU Water Framework Directive to a pilot non-EU country.

The main objective of the project is to test the different economic elements of the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive (WFD) in the Sebou river basin in Morocco. The different economic elements are essential for the effective application of the key principles of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM). It is proposed to test all the economic components of the WFD (article 5, annex III, as well as article 4 are related to the derogations and to the research of an optimum balance between environmental protection and economic development) in the Sebou river basin - although in some cases the test will have a pure virtual aspect (partially or entirely) - specifically:

- The analysis of the economic importance of water uses, in relation to the analyses of pressures and impacts on water resources. Due to its mainly descriptive character and its relatively limited relevance to water policy, this component will be given limited importance in the project and will aim at merely mobilizing and structuring the existing data. It will allow to define the current importance of water on an economic point of view and to better position the relationship between economic development and environmental protection.

- The development of trend scenarios in the Sebou basin, identifying in particular:
> The different variables (external and internal) that will influence the pressure of economic sectors on the water resources.
> The probable future evolution(s) of these variables, key element in the research of programme of measures that allow to increase the quality of aquatic environment in the Sebou basin.

- Analysis of the water pricing policies, a detailed attention being brought to 2 particular dimensions of the pricing policies in agreement with article 9 of the WFD:
> The cost recovering of the services of water (to be defined in the context of the Sebou basin).
> Inciting character of the current pricing applied to different sectors and uses.

- Cost-effectiveness analysis as a support to the selection of measures and projects allowing to achieve environmental goals (to be defined in the case of the Sebou basin) at lower cost. These problems seem particularly important in contexts of limited budgets and fragile economic sectors.

- The cost-benefit analysis or advantage-cost, considering in particular the environmental benefit associated to the improvement of the quality of the aquatic environment, allowing to evaluate the environmental objectives based on purely ecological and technical criteria from an economic point of view.

These various components are of course strictly connected one to another, the results of the one being used as a basis for the other or vice versa.


WWF MedPO has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Sebou river basin agency for improving Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) and this project will provide key analysis towards that direction.

The different economic elements of the Water Framework Directive are essential for the effective application of the key principles of IRBM. This will be used to support the agency in taking the path towards IRBM.

Period [01/01/2007 - 31/12/2007]