Published On: Tue, Apr 9th, 2013

High Salt Levels found Morocco’s Draa Basin Endanger Oases Farming, New Study


By Mourad Anouar

Morocco News Tribune

Oklahoma, U.S.A | A new study by Duke university revealed Monday that the inflow of imported water has exacerbated problems by dramatically increasing the natural saltiness of their groundwater of six farm oases in the arid, sub-Saharan Draa Basin.

The study, which was conducted byVengosh and Warner from Duke University and five Moroccan scientists and graduate students led by Lhoussaine Bouchaou of the Applied Geology and Geo-Environment Laboratory at Ibn Zohr University, analyzed more than 100 water samples collected in 2009 and 2010 from sites above, below and at the man-made reservoir that stores and releases runoff from the High Atlas Mountains into the Draa Basin, according to a press release by Duke University.

According to the new study by American and Moroccan scientists from , dissolved salt measured was at the level as high as 12,000 milligrams per liter at some locations – far above the 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams per liter most crops, making hard hard for plants to tolerate.

Dissolved salt levels in the groundwater of the three southernmost farm oases are now so high they endanger the long-term sustainability of date palm farming there,” the study says.

Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, said The flow of imported surface water onto farm fields has caused natural salts in the desert soil and underlying rock strata to dissolve and leach into local groundwater supplies,”

Over time, the buildup of dissolved salt levels has become irreversible.”he added.

According to Nathaniel Warner, a PhD student at Duke’s Nicholas School who led the study, “Once we get a water sample’s fingerprint, we can compare it to the fingerprints of other samples and track the nature of the salinity source,”

Morocco has overthan 40 years dammed and redirected snow-melt and runoff from High Atlas Mountains hundreds of kilometers to the south to irrigate oases farms in the arid, sub-Saharan Draa Basin.