Melhoria dos conhecimentos e gestão concertada do Sistema Aquífero do Sara do Norte através da utilização de imagens de satélite



Download the practice

People in charge of the innovative practice :

Não conhecido

GEO-AQUIFER is the continuum of the SASS project and aimed to improve knowledge and concerted management of the Northern Sahara Aquifer System (SASS) through the use of satellite images. The project created an information and knowledge base to support sustainable transboundary management of the Northern Sahara aquifers at national and sub-regional levels. The project has thus improved the living conditions of the population through the development of knowledge and sustainable management of transboundary aquifers through the use of satellite data, in order to increase concerted action between Algeria, Libya and Tunisia.

Figure 1 : Location map of the North Sahara Aquifer System (SASS).

The project was executed by the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) with the support of the European Space Agency (ESA), and funded by the African Water Facility (AWF) for a duration of 18 months. The objectives of the project were to: (i) optimize the use of satellite data for the knowledge and management of the SASS aquifer shared by Algeria, Libya and Tunisia; (ii) provide the national agencies in charge of water management in the SASS countries with tools to strengthen and improve the consultation mechanism for an efficient and sustainable management of the shared water resource; (iii) to develop the capacities of the national agencies in the use of satellite data and the appropriation of these new technologies in order to obtain reliable data and information quickly and at a lower cost; and (iv) to ensure the replication to other African basins.
The project has thus contributed to strengthen the capacities (use of satellite and geographic data) of the services in charge of water management in the countries concerned by the SASS aquifer system. It has also provided tools to these countries to better identify the uses, and pressures exerted by both population and climate change on the aquifer system.
GEO-AQUIFER has thus implemented innovative technologies (satellite images), and has contributed to the strengthening of national capacities in a perspective of sustainability and reinforcement of the SASS concerted consultation mechanism.

Responsible entity

The Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) is an international organization that operates in the arid, semi-arid, sub-humid and dry areas of the Sahara-Sahel region. Created in 1992, the OSS has been based in Tunis (Tunisia) since 2000. OSS has 26 African countries and 13 organizations among its members. OSS initiates and facilitates partnerships around common challenges related to shared water resources management, implementation of international agreements on desertification, biodiversity and climate change in the Sahara-Sahel region.

The main actions carried out by the OSS are

  • The implementation of multilateral agreements on desertification, biodiversity and climate change;
  • The promotion of regional and international initiatives related to environmental challenges in Africa;
  • The definition of concepts and harmonization of approaches and methodologies related to sustainable land and water resources management and climate change.

OSS necessarily relies on knowledge transfer, capacity building and awareness raising of all stakeholders.
OSS activities and projects are financed respectively by voluntary contributions from member countries, and by grants and donations from development partners. With effective governance mechanisms and a competent, multicultural and multidisciplinary team, OSS makes a high value-added contribution to the international and African institutional landscape.

Institutional setting

The GEO-AQUIFER project is in line with the 2010 OSS strategy and the priorities of its “Water” program, which in its initial phase focuses on large transboundary aquifers in Africa. The project is consistent with the AWF’s areas of intervention, namely the management of transboundary water resources by supporting the joint development of shared waters and by supporting the improvement of knowledge in the fields of information systems and water resources management. GEO-AQUIFER is also part of the 2005-2009 operational program of the African Water Facility, by improving the framework of knowledge and concerted management of the SASS aquifer system shared by Algeria, Libya and Tunisia. The project is also perfectly in line with the NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) priorities of integrated management of transboundary water resources and with the poverty reduction strategies of the SASS basin riparian countries, which have made water resources management a priority for sustainable development.

Geographical setting

The GEO-AQUIFER project covers the Northern Sahara Aquifer System (SASS) and the Tunisian-Libyan coastal aquifer of the Djeffara. The SASS covers more than one million km2 in Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. The extension and the thickness of the layers have favored the accumulation of considerable reserves, which are renewed little and are exploitable only in part. Over the last 40 years, the annual exploitation of the SASS has increased fivefold, reaching 3 times the average level of its natural recharge, and the aquifer is facing several major risks: strong transboundary interference, salinization of water, disappearance of artesianism, drying up of outlets, and excessive pumping heights. The Djeffara refers to the Tunisian-Libyan coastal plain, containing an aquifer system whose continental part extends over 40,000 km2. In terms of risk, the Djeffara is distinguished by a pronounced level of alert: in 40 years, withdrawals have also increased fivefold. This has resulted in significant drops in the water table in the coastal areas where exploitation is concentrated with very dangerous salt water intrusions.

Detailed explanation

The technical developments made during the project are:

  • The extension of the digital mapping of the land use of the AQUIFER project;
  • The creation of surface water maps on the SASS-Djeffara basin (Algeria, Tunisia, Libya);
  • The elaboration of detailed land cover maps and land cover change maps on about 15 sample areas;
  • The extension of the DTMs of the AQUIFER project and derived products on the SASS-Djeffara basin;
  • The creation of a hydro-geographic repository on the SASS-Djeffara basin, a regional virtual globe, and a data dissemination tool;
  • The development of capacities with the continuation of the trainings undertaken following the AQUIFER project, in particular in the techniques of production, management and exchange of geo-scientific data or research support.

Future outlook

In the near future, the OSS intends to replicate GEO-AQUIFER in other basins, thus fulfilling its vocation as a partnership platform and center of excellence for sustainable development in Africa. At the end of the project, a number of challenges remain:

  • better knowledge of the irrigated perimeters on the whole Libyan Djeffara;
  • better knowledge of the water withdrawals on the SASS and the Djeffara;
  • full access to the possibilities offered by the GEO-AQUIFER website;
  • better use of geo-scientific data and satellite images for the management of water resources and the ordinary functioning of the SASS Consultation Mechanism.

All these challenges, which are natural extensions of the project, should be part of future cooperation programs between the Sahara and Sahel Observatory and the African Water Facility.

Historical overview

The GEO-AQUIFER project reinforced and completed the AQUIFER pilot project initiated by the ESA which concerned 5 pilot areas of the SASS. It constitutes its extension to the whole basin.

Figure 2 : Location of the area of interest and the study sites.

The experimental project AQUIFER, stemming from the TIGER program, is an ESA initiative which aimed at valorizing satellite data, in particular those issued from ESA’s ERS and ENVISAT satellites, for applications related to the management and monitoring of water resources in Africa. Within the framework of the TIGER initiative and under the impetus of the OSS, ESA has chosen the SASS (Algeria, Tunisia, Libya) and Iullemeden (Mali, Niger, Nigeria) basins to concretize its commitment to support the implementation of the Johannesburg Action Plan. ESA is financing the AQUIFER project, to the definition of which OSS has closely contributed by participating in the drafting of the terms of reference of the call for tenders, by assisting the consultancy firm in charge of the implementation of the project and by ensuring the coordination of the final users for the implementation of the project.

The Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) requested support from the African Water Facility (AWF) to improve the state of the art and management tools of the transboundary groundwater resources of the Northern Sahara Aquifer System (SASS).

The project started on June 6, 2007 in Tunis with a workshop gathering representatives of institutions in charge of water management in Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia. The project ended in 2009.

Evidence of benefits from implementation

The sustainability of the project’s achievements is ensured by the functioning of the SASS consultation mechanism set up by the three countries sharing the same resource. The SASS consultation mechanism, which constitutes a first experience at the world level of common groundwater management, has an operational structure financed by the countries for its functioning and the implementation of permanent activities (management of the networks, production of indicators). The GEO-AQUIFER project, which has certainly benefited from the establishment of the mechanism, has in return strongly contributed to the consolidation of the mechanism by putting into practice the concept of consultation. During the three years of the project, GEO-AQUIFER has indeed mobilized around the same objective the institutions of the water sector of Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, as well as engineering offices and consultants of the three countries around the same objectives. Through its contribution to the inventory of irrigated areas, and to the good knowledge of water withdrawals, it has contributed to ensure an objective, equitable, and sustainable operation of the consultation mechanism. For the national water agencies, it was important to properly locate the irrigation water withdrawal areas and thus facilitate the decisions within the framework of the SASS concertation mechanism with objective, transparent, neutral and comparable data.

Replication potential in SUDOE region

The project has a strong potential for replication thanks to the strong involvement of the OSS in the implementation of this project. All other African countries are beneficiaries of the methodologies implemented, which can be used for multiple applications related to water resources management. The project shows a strong replicability on other transboundary systems: at the condition of having an executing agency with the solidity of the OSS coupled with the pre-existence of an international consultation mechanism. The potential for replication at other scales, particularly trans-regional, is also significant. From a technical point of view, the project can be considered as an original and replicable model considering the following results: (i) the elaboration of digital maps of irrigated areas to serve as complementary and contradictory data, and to ensure a better reliability to the estimation of underground withdrawals, which are generally not very accurate; (ii) the elaboration of a common geographical reference frame for the three riparian countries of the transboundary system and the dissemination of the project’s products on the internet, and (iii) the training of hydrology practitioners in remote sensing techniques and hydro-geographical analysis methods.

The cost of the project was estimated to €564,300, and it benefited from grants from the African Development Bank and the OSS.

The key success factors were: (i) the stability of the project team, (ii) the involvement of national policymakers, (iii) the establishment of the concerted consultation mechanism, and (iv) the proactive role of the OSS. However, the project did not have the expected impact because it did not initiate a substantial communication program.

Key points of the innovative method

> Improved knowledge of transboundary systems through the use of satellite imagery
> Information and knowledge base to support transboundary management


The innovative practice was suggested by Yvan KEDAJ (Aqua-Valley) and Abdel Kader DODO, Lamine BABA SY, and Nabil BEN KHATRA (OSS) participated in the interview.


FAE (2006). GEO-AQUIFER : amélioration de la connaissance et de la gestion concertée du système aquifère du sahara septentrionnal (SASS) par l’utilisation de l’imagerie satellitale. Rapport d’évaluation de la Facilité Africaine de l’Eau. 

OSS (2010). Rapport d’achèvement du projet GEO-AQUIFER.

Internet references: OSS : FAE : ESA : NEPAD : Article en ligne “Démarrage du projet GEo-AQUIFER » : – consulté le 26 janvier 2022


Descubra mais sobre as notícias do projeto AQUIFER e sobre a gestão de aquíferos


Descrição e objectivos do projecto

The scientific community recommends a substantial improvement in the knowledge of aquifers, the establishment of reliable monitoring networks and a greater involvement of the administration and users to achieve a sustainable management of aquifers. The main objective...

read more

Informação sobre o projecto

A Comunidade de Utilizadores de Água do Delta Llobregat concebeu bacias de recarga em Molins de Rei para recarregar o aquífero do Baix Llobregat. Vista de uma das bacias de recarga durante a fase de teste A Comunidade de Utilizadores de Água de Llobregat Delta é um...

read more


Está a desenvolver ou implementar uma prática inovadora em matéria de gestão de aquíferos e deseja referência-la na plataforma do projeto AQUIFER?

Preencha o formulário e faça uma proposta aos parceiros do projeto AQUIFER.


O Aquífero oferece uma gama de práticas inovadoras de gestão da água. Pode descarregar todas as nossas fichas técnicas aqui.



Aprofunde a informação relacionada com a gestão dos aquíferos