Satellite data for Sebou river basin management, Morocco

Sebou river basin in Morocco

Sebou river basin in Morocco

The Sebou River basin is one of the largest river basins in Morocco covering about 40 000 km2 (6% of national territory), 6 million inhabitants, 25% of the national groundwater reserve and 30% of the national surface water. Oued Sebou is the main permanent river of the country but also the most polluted one. The river basin agency ABH Sebou is in charge of water resources management through concertation with national and regional public bodies. The main challenges are related to water scarcity, sedimentation in the main reservoirs, heavy pollution, high flood risk with more than 100 risk areas identified, and threats to biodiversity and some ecosystems.

To face these challenges, ABH Sebou is applying several principles derived from the EU Water Directives: the definition of ecological flows with the support of the World Wide Fund for Nature, and updating its river basin management plans in the framework of an EU twinning programme with France, Spain and Romania. The availability of suitable monitoring information and indicators are key for the success of these approaches. Thus, ABH Sebou decided to work with the SWOS project to assess how satellite data could help monitoring water resources and their uses and then be integrated in its operational water information system.

Potential wetland areas identified by SWOS, Sebou river basin, Morocco

Potential wetland areas identified by SWOS, Sebou river basin, Morocco

The first exchanges with the ABH Sebou and local stakeholders (Ministry of Agriculture, High Commissariat for Water and Forests and Desertification) in Fes, allowed to identify priority areas where SWOS products could provide valuable inputs:

  • Support for flood risk management: monitoring flooded areas and comparison with hazard maps defined with models, integration of soil moisture into early warning monitoring network (today based on river water levels/flows), water retention maps based on land coverage;
  • Identification of and monitoring pressures on water resources using Land Use Land Cover maps (reference and change maps);
  • Inventory and delineation of wetlands with a priority on the four restoration areas identified by the river basin management plan: Boujaoui, Dayat Hachlaf, Dayet Aoua and Dayat Afenourir;
  • And finally, monitoring vegetal coverage around water reservoirs to assess silting risk.

By Eric Mino, EMWIS Technical Unit