Residents of the La Remonte neighborhood in the north of the city of Tebessa, near the Tunisian border, took to the streets in early June to protest the chronic water scarcity in the region.

We want our right to water, a common property for all people. We want our right to life,” chanted the protesters in the city of 700,000 people situated 600 kilometers east of the capital, Algiers.

Many Tebessa residents said they had been without water for 10 days in temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius, despite the surrounding dams and wells being well stocked.

Water only comes once every five days,” complained an elderly man of the old al-Zawiya neighborhood. The man said he has to walk several miles to access drinking water in a container.

Despite successive Algerian governments having invested more than EUR 25 billion over the last 15 years to upgrade the country’s water infrastructure, the people of Tebessa have failed to benefit.

While residents of major cities such as Algiers, Constantine and Oran enjoy water every day around the clock, people in Tebessa, at best, only have access to tap water every other day for four hours a day.

Some neighborhoods, such as the al-Zawiya, al-Zaytoun, downtown al-Jarf, and La Remonte, suffer from chronic water scarcity due to the local government’s delays in renovating and extending drinking water networks. These neighborhoods are supplied with water once every three or four days.

Local water authorities sometimes circulate with water tankers to compensate for the irregular distribution. Most residents of al-Zawiya, al-Zaytoun, al-Jarf, and La Remonte, however, buy water from private suppliers. Yet, the price they pay is much higher than that enjoyed by average Algerians.

Water from a tanker costs EUR 2.6 per meter cubed in Tebessa. This rises to EUR 3.2 for residents who live on higher floors and need to employ a water pump. The price of a cubic meter of water in Constantine, as provided by the national grid, is EUR 0.5.

Water transporters, a large informal industry in the city, bring water from their own wells located in several areas along the roads to al-Kouif, Bakkariya and the side road to Boulahaf, not far from Tebessa city center. Others bring water from springs in the north of the state, such as Ain Zarouq and Qastal.

Tebessa residents source their drinking water from other sources outside the city. Some shop at a water-filling unit that is operated by a private company near the city and sells by the liter at EUR 0.35.

Still others travel to a parallel spring and collect water for free. Some residents travel 10 kilometers to the Youkous Springs, where the water is also free. Tebessa, historically known as Theveste – one of the most scenic cities of the ancient Roman Empire in North Africa – has ample water resources.

The exacerbated water crisis is attributed to delays in renovation of key supply networks. The local government began renovation three years ago but hastily completed the works, which has complicated the completion of other parts of the network, according to a source with national water provider Algérienne des Eaux (ADE).

The major reason behind the delay is the local administration’s incompetency in managing development projects,” said the source from national provider ADE, who preferred to remain anonymous.

Algérienne des Eaux is encountering several challenges in water supply,” said the source, adding that these include: “The declining water level of dams and wells over the past 20 years, that have witnessed considerable drought, as well as illegal connections and damages inflicted by contractors tasked with renovating supply networks to the main pumping channels.”

However, the local government and local residents retort that water is being wasted due to leaks in the apparatus that ADE has failed to tap.

The government hopes a summer drive to open two new wells for local residents will alleviate the chronic water shortage. Many local residents, however, continue to see this as only a temporary solution and hope the regular supply network will be up-and-running again soon.