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Water supply in Roman Carthage

Water supply in modern Tunis

Today Tunis is a city of about 2.5 million people (about 1/4 of the entire Tunisian population). Urbanization has rendered groundwater insufficient and polluted.

The capital today is mainly served by the waters of the Medjerda basin, thanks to the many cotemporary dams built and to the transfer of water from the north to the capital and several other coastal areas (Cap Bon, Sahel) up to Sfax in the east. These works were materialised a  few decades after the independance of the country (1970s-1990s)  

The watershed of Medjerda plain is the main feeder basin for Tunis and beyond. However, droughts and floods are fairly common and feared by farmers. Following the catastrophic floods of February 1937 which caused extensive damages throughout the country, the Office for the Development of Medjerda Valley (OMVM) was founded, to deal with flooding, sanitation and drainage, the protection and restoration of soils, irrigation and agricultural works. Unfortunately this office no longer exists, while the floods of 2003, 2007 and 2009 have underlined its necessity.

Northern Tunisia, being abundant in waters (80% of the country’s surface waters) constitutes the country's granary. In fact this region generates 63% of the national agricultural production north, including 80% of the cereal production. The rest of the country is semi-arid, arid and Saharan.

Despite the scarcity of water resources in Tunisia especially in comparison to other Mediterranean countries, Tunisia has managed to mobilize 95% of its water resources, and allow 100% access to drinking water in urban areas (2/3 of the population), and 85% in rural areas (1/3 of the population).

 

Habits of modern people

In Tunis and other big cities the construction of contemporary multi-storey apartment buildings is not suitable for the traditional water management through wells or Majil, which are now abandoned.

On the other hand, habits have not changed in rural areas where tradition is passed on from generation to generation, by operating the wells and the majils in the houses to store fresh water. Actually, people in rural areas keep storing water also in ceramic vessels as they appreciate the taste and flavor of water when in contact with pottery. This traditional way of managing water at domestic level is very efficient (daily consumption is reduced to only 30 to 60 liters per family member) and contributes to the preservation of the valuable resource.  

Today, the hammam is more popular in urban rather than in rural areas. It is the place of therapy, relaxation and fun, especially during the pre-wedding bath of a bride. 

All the hydraulic remains of Tunis are well preserved and can be visited today, especially alongside the Zaghouan aqueduct that reaches Carthage, which is organized as a tourist route since 2007.

For visits, please contact the Tourist Office of Tunisia: http://www.bonjour-tunisie.com