Overview of Somaliland Water Sector

Somaliland is situated in the Horn of Africa and is bordered by Djibouti to the west, Ethiopia to the south, and the Puntland region of Somalia to the east. Somaliland has an area of about 180,000 square kilometres[1]. It is regarded internationally as an autonomous region of Somalia although the government of Somaliland regards itself as an independent state.

Somaliland’s population is estimated at around 3.5 million (2005) most of them are either pastoralists or agro-pastoralists. The urban population is estimated to be around 40% but is rapidly expanding. Somaliland’s climate is mostly arid or semi-arid with few limited relatively wet areas at high altitude. Extreme recorded temperatures range from −3.3°C at Ceerigaabo to 47.7°C at Berbera. Most of Somaliland receives as little as 50 to 150 millimetres of rain annually. However certain higher altitude areas record more than 500 millimetres a year. Generally rainfall takes the form of showers or localized torrential rains and is extremely variable.


The incidence of poverty in Somaliland is very high. Remittances (estimated at $ 0.5 billion p.a.) are the largest component of the Somaliland’s economy followed by the livestock sub-sector (production, processing, trade and export) which is the most significant source of employment, income public finance as well as the second foreign currency earner. Crop farming is quite limited and dependent on erratic rainfall.


The FSNAU 2010 Post Gu analysis[2] estimates that 11% of the Somaliland population is either on need of emergency humanitarian assistance or livelihood support.

Poverty and vulnerability have mostly been associated to the rural population. However urban food security has also deteriorated. The rapidly increasing urban population relies on the informal economy based on trade, hotels, transport, utilities and communications. The FSNAU 2010 Post Gu analysis estimates that in Somaliland the urban people in need of humanitarian or livelihood support in Somaliland are around 13% versus 10% in rural areas.


In this proposal we will cover urban water supply, rural water supply, irrigation systems and strategies for drought mitigation and proper water management. Somaliland is a chronically water scare country, water is a scarce commodities and becoming scarcer simply because of a limited national endowment, the growing needs of rapidly increasing human and livestock population, as well as serious water resources degradation. In addition to this scarcity, Somaliland is a highly vulnerable to rainfall variability: droughts are frequent sustainable utilization, development of long-term socio-economic development and poverty reduction goals.


The main sources of water in rural areas are the privately owned Barkeds (cemented water catchments), manually dug shallow wells, communal stock watering ponds and subsurface dams. All of these sources of water depend on harvest of seasonal rainfall or rainfall recharges in the case of shallow wells. While in urban areas, groundwater is the main source of water for human and livestock consumption and in some instances sources of water for irrigation of small vegetable and fruit farms. Most rural communities depend on a combination of these water sources.


Over the last three decades, the construction of Berkads expanded in response to the increased demand from livestock traders. With the growing level of urbanization, traditional shallow wells, as sources of water, become inadequate’ as a result of deep bore wells were drilled in urban areas during the 1970’s. All urban municipal water supplies now rely on deep bore wells as major sources of water. Some deep wells and stock watering ponds and dams were also constructed in rural districts. A smaller number of deep bore wells were also privately constructed.


A survey of 127 government owned deep bore wells and other sources of water were completed recently. According to the survey results, about 40 percent of all existing wells are operational.


Most of these were rehabilitated over the last 15 years with the help of international organizations. An equal number of wells have been abandoned and need replacement. The remaining 20 percent of the wells surveyed need rehabilitation. The condition of the other water sources is in similar state of disrepair; ponds and dams need to be de-silted.


Most rural communities rely on expensive water trucking during the long dry seasons that is brought over long distances. The access to water for the urban poor is through urban water distribution sites and municipal water services where they are operational.


The Somaliland government through the Ministry of Mining, Energy and Water Resources have identified the need for the establishment of an effective national policy and appropriate regulatory framework that has been a bottleneck for the achievement of MDG and WSSD.


The regulatory framework in the form of the Somaliland National Water act 2011 is currently bieng passed through parliament and will be completed and ready for enforcement in February 2011 and will be followed by the achievement of sustainable water management systems in all aspects of urban and Rural water.


Previously there were different water management institutions like the Ministry of Water and Mineral Resources, municipalities, Water Agencies, community based water management system and their coordination was very poor which resulted in a great setback for the sector. The government of Somaliland has political and financial constraints and this has in turn also weakened the effectiveness in it’s anticipation to take a leading role in the water sector.


In view of the foregoing, and due to the fact that the Somaliland government is endeavoring to mitigate droughts and create environmentally sustainable water developments, we are therefore submitting this national project proposal to the UAE Government for support in the Somaliland National Water Sector.

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[1] Source: UNDP/WB JNA

[2] FSNAU Technical Series Report n. VI, 33, September 27 2010