Our Work

Investigating Salinity and Radioactivity in Water Resources in Morocco

Project Objectives

Morocco is one of the most arid regions of the world and based on many Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate models annual rainfall is expected to decrease over the next few decades. With increasing demands for drinking water and irrigation (90 percent of water in Morocco is used for agriculture) the water crisis in Morocco is expected to become exaggerated. The increase in groundwater exploitation is also associated with a rapid increase of the salinity in many of the aquifer systems of Morocco. The high salinity of groundwater has become a limiting factor for sustainable management of the water resources, and therefore has important implications for future economic development and social and political stability in Morocco. Water authorities are already struggling to distribute and provide potable water to the domestic and agricultural sectors. This North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) project aims to investigate the groundwater quality (with a focus on the effects of salinity and radioactivity) of four major basins in Morocco (Souss-Massa, Draa, Ziz, and Tadla) through a collaborative effort between Duke University and University of Ibn Zohr in Agadir.

This study aims to provide a systematic analysis of geochemical and isotopic compositions of saline ground waters from the selected aquifers, which will help to evaluate the sources of salinity, mechanisms for salinization, as well as the first investigation of naturally occurring radioactive nuclides in water resources in Morocco. Identifying the origin of salinity and radioactivity is crucial for water management, model prediction, and remediation.

This analysis will help to establish a scientifically-based water management plan with specific recommendations for the end-users for sustainable exploitation of the water sources in the investigated basins and potential implications on population health.

Project Outcomes

Several publications and a few more papers on progress:

Vinson, D.S., Tagma, T., Bouchaou, L., Dwyer, G.S., Nathaniel R. Warner, N.R., and Vengosh, A. (2013) Occurrence and mobilization of radium in brackish to saline groundwater in coastal aquifers as inferred from geochemical and isotopic tracers (Ra, Rn, Sr, S, O, H). Applied Geochemistry, 38, 161-175.

Warner, N.R., Lgourna, Z, Bouchaou, L, Boutaleb, S, Tagma, T, Hsaissoune, M, Vengosh, A., (2013). Integration of geochemical and isotopic tracers for elucidating water sources and salinization of shallow aquifers in the sub-Saharan Drâa Basin, Morocco. Applied Geochemistry, 34, 140-151.

Ettayfi, N., Bouchaou, L., Michelot, J.L., Tagama, T., Warner, N., Boutaleb, S., Massault, M., Lgourna, Z., Vengosh, A. (2012) Geochemical and isotopic (oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, strontium) constraints for the origin, salinity, and residence time of groundwater from a carbonate aquifer in the Western Anti-Atlas Mountains, Morocco. Journal of Hydrology, 438, 97-111.

Bouchaou, L. , Qurtobi, M., Michelot , J.L., Zine, N., Gaye, C.B., Aggarwal, P.K., Mara, H., Zerouall, A., Taleb, H. and Vengosh, A. (2009). Origin and residence time of groundwater in the Tadla basin (Morocco) using multiple isotopic and geochemical tools. Journal of Hydrology, 379, 323-338.

Project Policy Impact Description

Modification and adjustment of the national water management practice.


Department & School

Earth and Ocean Sciences
Nicholas School of the Environment



  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Science for Peace


  • University of Ibn Zohr in Agadir

Project Status


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