Drinking water

Fadwa Benyahia & Magdalena Tröndle

No taxis drive to Sidi Taibi. “The village is far too remote and nobody wants to go there”, says a taxi driver. Public transport stops shortly before the village entrance. The buses turn around. And the train on the nearby railway line simply thunders past. Nobody makes a stop here.

The village is only 30 kilometres away from Morocco´s capital of Rabat and just a few kilometres from the University city of Kenitra. Yet, Sidi Taibi is an isolated spot in the midst of one of the richest regions in Morocco. Here is where the poor people live. Those who cannot afford the expensive life of the city. The people have built tiny stone huts on the brown sand, most of which have a makeshift corrugated iron roof. Waste water flows between them. Emaciated cats prowl through the village in the search for something edible.

Khawla El Guerrab is 18 years old and lives with her family in Sidi Taibi.

Sidi Taibi has a lack of almost everything. Such as electricity. Those who are fortunate can steal some from one of the few electricity cables along the main street. But there is also a lack of hospitals, police stations and schools for the 60,000 people now living in the village. That is ten times more people than 20 years ago. They are all living on the breadline.

But the most serious problem in Sidi Taibi is the water. There are various wells scattered around the village from which groundwater gushes. This is where the women collect their water in canisters on mornings and evenings. Many lug the full canisters for several kilometres until they reach their houses.

What most of them do not know: The water is heavily contaminated. “The nitrate content exceeds the maximum value of 10 per cent. We know that it is carcinogenic”; says Soufian El Ghzizel. He conducted research on the topic of water treatment at the university in Kenitra. The fertilisers from agriculture in the region are to blame for the pollution.

Khawla attends one of the few state schools in the village. The Al-Anwar school is enormous; 2,000 pupils are enrolled here. “The facilities are at a bare minimum, but it is a good place”, says Khawla. It has been particularly good here since 2014: Here is where the Ibn Tufail University in Kenitra initiated a research project on water quality. With state help and overseas support, a research group installed a water treatment system in this school at a value of EUR 20,000. It provides pupils with excellent quality drinking water. And that is in the midst of squalor in Sidi Taibi.

It is the first and only water treatment plant in Africa, which applies nano filtration technology to purify the water. It was developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), originally for manned expeditions to space – for recycling urine.

It is a highly complex system. “There are only five of them in the world”, says El Ghzizel. “For a region as isolated as Sidi Taibi, the benefit is enormous”. The nano filtration technology makes it possible to retain valuable minerals in the water that disappear during conventional water treatment and then have to be added again later. What is more, it is no longer necessary to purify the water with chloride because a biochemical reaction replaces the cleaning agent. “The water that children in Sidi Taibi drink at school, is of better quality than the rest of the water throughout Morocco”, says Soufian El Ghzizel.

The system needs a lot of electricity. Since there is none in the area, the research group has connected 162 solar panels and a wind turbine. The energy is sufficient for getting the high-performance filter up and running. The residual current is used to light the headmaster´s office. “It is good to know that there is always electricity in the school”, says Khawla. “That provides security.”


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