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Policy Brief // Improving sustainable development in the North Western Sahara Aquifer System through a transboundary nexus approach

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe published a policy brief highlighting the main results of a participatory assessment of the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus in the North Western Sahara Aquifer System (NWSAS). Coordination among the water, energy, food and environment sectors is fraught with difficulties, and the complexity increases substantially in transboundary contexts. The nexus approach to managing interlinked resources aims to enhance water, energy and food security by increasing efficiency, reducing trade-offs, building synergies and improving governance while protecting ecosystems.

SD in Aquifer Systems through Nexus UNECE

This Nexus Assessment of the NWSAS was carried out under the UNECE Convention
on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention), applying an assessment methodology developed in its framework, in close cooperation with the Global Water Partnership Mediterranean and the Sahara and Sahel Observatory as part of the project, “Making water cooperation happen in the Mediterranean (Med Water Matchmaker)”, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The assessment also built on synergies with the Water, Climate and Development Programme (WACDEP) of the Global Water Partnership.

  1. This Policy Brief highlights the main results of a participatory assessment of the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus in the North Western Sahara Aquifer System (NWSAS).
  2. The NWSAS Nexus Assessment is an outcome of a participatory process that
    included national consultations and two transboundary workshops.
  3. Improving the management of NWSAS resources is highly important to the socioeconomic development of the three countries and the region as a whole.
  4. The tightly linked challenges experienced by the different sectors reinforce the strong nexus in the North Western Sahara Aquifer area.

Package of NEXUS solutions for the development of the North-West Sahara aquifer system


  • Enhance local water management through stronger participation and enforcement
  • Reinforce transboundary cooperation for sustainable management of groundwater
  • Set up dedicated policies and incentives for wastewater reuse in agriculture and urban areas
  • Strengthen water demand management, including through water saving
  • Scale up the use of non-conventional water resources from desalination and wastewater


  • Enhance coordination of energy development with other sectoral plans
  • Develop a multi-purpose renewable energy programme and sustainably scale up small-scale solar irrigation
  • Improve the reliability of the electricity grid in rural areas and integrate renewables


  • Set up policies for reasonable, sustainable and productive agriculture
  • Increase the value of local products, support a more balanced diet, and involve women and youth in the economic and social development of oases
  • Promote a circular economy, such as agroecological practices, through economic and social measures
  • Enhance and scale up innovation for sustainable soil and crop management


  • Increase awareness in public institutions of trade-offs and synergies between different sectors
  • Consider environmental needs in the water balance of the aquifer
  • Systematize environmental and social impact assessments for all new infrastructure

More Information

Read the full report "Reconciling resource uses: Assessment of the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus in the North Western Sahara Aquifer System Part A - "Nexus Challenges and Solutions" here.


September 2020


United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)


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