It’s a feeble drip, drip, drip from the taps every night in Tunisia for six months. Spigots are cut off for seven hours from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. in a state-ordered water rationing in most regions across the country, including Tunis, the capital city.
Tunisians are on the front lines of a battle against an increasingly severe drought, now in its fifth year in the north African country, with the government issuing a sudden order to its population to ration their water usage from April to September — or risk fines or jail.
Households now need a supply of bottled water to wash, use toilets and prepare meals during late night hours. Authorities have also forbidden the use of potable water for irrigation of farmlands, watering green areas in cities and for cleaning streets and cars.
Water levels at almost all of Tunisia’s 30-plus dams have fallen drastically, some as low as 17 percent of their storage capacity.
The Sidi Salem dam in northwest Tunisia provides tap water to Tunis and along the Tunisian Sahel, including cities like Sfax, as well as water for irrigation around Tunis.
But water stored there is at its lowest level since its construction in 1981, the newspaper La Presse reported, quoting Faycel Khemiri, the No. 2 official for dams and hydraulic works at the Agricultural Ministry.
There’s also concern over a potentially scorching summer in Tunisia — where temperatures can top 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) — ramping up water demand and causing eventual protests over the cuts.
The country is already in the midst of an economic crisis. Talks with the International Monetary Fund for a $1.9 billion loan agreement to help finance the state stalled late last year amid Tunisia’s political tensions.
Tunisia is experiencing its worst crisis in a generation as inflation hovers around 11 percent and food supplies are increasingly scarce, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Ramadan is nearly over, but summer and the start of tourist season will turn up the heat.
Tourism is a major source of income for Tunisia, with the country of about 12 million people boasting around 850 hotels.