Water shortages in northern Algeria: “Washing and cooking have become luxuries”

People waiting to collect water at one of the region’s springs in August 2012. Photo by Kamel Kaci.
The mountainous district of Bouzeguène, situated in northern Algeria’s Kabylie region, has been suffering from recurring water shortages, much to the anger of local residents. Our Observer points the finger at an obsolete pipe system and poor management by the state company in charge of water distribution.
Bouzeguène is the central water distribution point for several dozen surrounding villages. A 1500 cubic metre water tower was constructed there to redistribute water to surrounding areas via much smaller water towers. However, according to our Observer, the system of pipes linked to the large water tower is leaking at several spots, slowing down supply and leading to a drastic reduction in the amount of water delivered to certain villages.
Kamel Kaci
A tractor pulling a water tank on its way to be filled up at a spring.

“Water flows from our taps every 10 days or so”

Kamel Kaci is a retired French teacher living in Bouzeguène.
The pipes installed in the middle of the 2000s leak everywhere. It replaced an old network that had become completely useless, because many consumers had simply pierced the pipes and connected their homes without paying for it. We don’t have the proof, but we suspect the current leaks are due to new acts of sabotage.
In any case, the new system hasn’t even been completed. In certain parts, often at the final turn before entering a village, the piping ends. Why? No one knows. This negligence can be partly blamed on ADE, the state water provider, and companies charged with managing the pipes’ construction. ADE technicians are trying to repair the holes, but they don’t know where to start [ADE, contacted by FRANCE 24 for comment, has yet to respond].
As a consequence, it has become very hard to fill the water towers. It’s particularly hard during the six months of drought during the summer. Therefore, people have to improvise. Some have purchased water tanks and attached them to trucks. They go and fill them up at springs, and redistribute the water to the villages, but this is expensive. Others go and fill up their own containers at the fountains, but there are often queues, and the process takes a long time.
Kamel Kaci
People waiting to collect water at one of the region’s springs in August 2012.
“Sometimes, the water starts to flow at three o’clock in the morning, so you need to get up to collect it”
Like others, I’ve bought a 1,800-litre water tank for my house. I fill it up with water from the tap when it flows every 10 days or so. Sometimes, the water starts to flow at three o’clock in the morning, so you need to get up to collect it. I leave the valve open so that the sound of the water flowing wakes me up and I don’t miss the opportunity. In addition to the water tank, I fill up everything that can hold water: tins, jerry cans, even drinking glasses! Even if I collect the equivalent of three water tanks, that’s sometimes not enough: washing yourself and cooking have become luxuries. We hardly have any water left to clean the toilets and the drains.

It’s not just the Bouzeguène region that has suffered water shortages. This summer, entire neighbourhoods in Michelet and Tizi Ouzou [cities in northern Algeria] suffered the same fate. At the last local elections, mayoral candidates promised to tackle the issue head on. But I feel the end of the tunnel is still very far away.