The 2nd Transboundary Workshop on Water-Energy-Food- Ecosystems Nexus in the North-Western Sahara Aquifer System (NWSAS) was held on 18-19 June 2019, in Hammamet, Tunisia. It marked the conclusion of a structured multi-stakeholder dialogue process towards identifying and prioritizing challenges and solutions for the integrated management of natural resources in the biggest transboundary groundwater reserve of North Africa, that is shared by Algeria, Libya and Tunisia.
NWSAS extends over 1 million Km². Its water resources are largely non-renewable while their replenishment is limited to around 1 billion m3/year. Over the last decades, the socio-economic development in the basin as well as the technological progress in well-drilling led to a steadily growing water abstraction. Today, the rate of withdrawals from the aquifer exceeds multiple times the rate of its replenishment. Consequent water depletion, salinization, loss of artesianism, soil degradation, reduction of agriculture productivity, increase in energy demand for water pumping and demineralization, are only some of the challenges faced by the NWSAS countries. Ensuring sustainable development in the basin requires a multi-sectoral and multi-level coordinated and synergetic action.
In assistance to and in effective coordination with the formal NWSAS Consultation Mechanism (NWSAS-CM) established among NWSAS countries, a Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems Nexus Dialogue for the basin was facilitated by the Global Water Partnership-Mediterranean (GWP-Med), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS). The Dialogue was part of the GWP-Med Project ‘Making Water Cooperation Happen in the Mediterranean (Med Water Matchmaker)’ that is financially supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
The solution-oriented Dialogue included an inclusive consultation process amongst stakeholders at transboundary and at national level, that was informed by a technical Nexus assessment. The 1st Transboundary Workshop (18-19 July 2017, Algiers, Algeria) identified the Nexus interlinkages and outlined management, policy and infrastructure-related actions that could be taken up. It formulated three broad objectives which should be explored concurrently in a Nexus approach, including related to Ecosystems considerations and under Climate Change challenges:
- Water: The preservation of groundwater resources and the rationalization of their use, including with utilization of non-conventional water resources;
- Energy: The sustainable development of the energy sector, including by promoting renewable energy for water management and desalination;
- Food: The modernization of agriculture and the increase of its efficiency and viability, including by promoting local products and strengthening youth and women groups
These objectives were discussed in two back-to-back National Workshops, organized in Tunis: for Libya (1-2 April 2019) and for Tunisia (3-4 April 2019). The National Workshops elaborated on suggested multi-sectoral solutions and how to achieve their implementation at national and transboundary level, in alignment with national sectoral strategies and ongoing initiatives and projects. This also offered the platform to initiate discussions towards a shared vision amongst NWSAS riparians for the sustainable development in the aquifer.
Concluding this consultation process, the 2nd Transboundary Workshop validated the solutions’ packages, and set three synergetic goals aiming to maximize investments’ impacts and reduce inter-sectoral trade offs:
- Coherent (cross-sectoral and multi-level) planning for sustainable development in the NWSAS;
- Enhanced inclusive development and local resilience to address NWSAS challenges;
- Circular Economy in the water, energy, food and environment sectors.
The African Development Bank (AfDB), the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) presented national and regional initiatives and investment channels that could support the implementation of the proposed Nexus solutions. Building on these opportunities, ways forward towards preparing project proposals in each of the NWSAS countries and financing solutions’ implementation, were recommended by the participants.
Furthermore, participants elaborated on the main achievements and benefits generated so far for the three NWSAS riparians from transboundary cooperation through the work of the NWSAS Consultation Mechanism as well as prospective benefits from enhanced synergies. This assisted advancing discussion on key elements of a possible shared vision for NWSAS. a suggested formulation of the shared vision will be prepared for further discussions among NWSAS countries.
 2nd Transboundary Workshop material: http://www.unece.org/environmental-policy/conventions/water/meetings-and-events/water/task-force-on-the-water-energy-food-ecosystems-nexus-water-convention/2019/second-regional-workshop-assessing-the-water-energy-food-ecosystems-nexus-in-the-basin-of-the-north-western-sahara-aquifer-system/doc.html)
 Libya Workshop material: http://www.unece.org/info/media/news/environment/2019/libyan-authorities-and-experts-work-towards-improved-management-of-transboundary-groundwater-in-north-west-sahara/doc.html)
 1st Transboundary Workshop material: https://www.unece.org/info/media/presscurrent-press-h/environment/2017/assessment-launched-to-reinforce-cooperation-between-algeria-libya-and-tunisia-in-managing-shared-groundwater-resources/doc.html).