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Implementation of an integrated decision support system (IDSS) for

water management in Souss-Massa Morocco

Dolcine L.1, Prévil C.2, Brahm A.1, and Ahluwalia H1
1) Info-Electronics Systems (IES), Canada.
2) Department of Geography, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Canada.


This paper presents the implementation results of an Integrated Decision Support system (IDSS)
designed specifically for the Souss-Massa Hydraulic Basin Agency (AHBSM). This project has been
developed to provide AHBSM with an updated spatial database, the appropriate tools and the know-how
for a better support in the management and arbitration of precarious water resources. The conceptual
model of the database has been designed to take into account the entire role and mission of the water
agency. The application developed proposed a solution to four problems identified with the heads of the
Agency: ground water availability, reservoir management, soil erosion and flood risk mapping.

Using earth observation products, with the help of the Morocco Royal Center for Remote Sensing, the
development of the IDSS has been successfully completed by providing to the water agency a spatial
geodatabase with an updated and high resolution DEM, land cover map and modeling tools. These tools
developed by the implementation and integration of applications meet specific requirements of the
agency. These applications have been designed with global or local objectives such as: erosion mapping,
flood risk area reservoir management and ground water potential. Beyond the technical and
methodological components, the realization of IDSS highlighted the importance, in a project of this kind,
of a strong partnership with local stakeholders and staff training. The project was funded in part by the
Canadian Space Agency.

Key words: Geographic information system (GIS); Integrated Decision Support System (IDSS);
Watershed management; land use; spatial analysis.

The countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, such as Morocco are exposed to many challenges
related to management of water resources. Since 1995, water management in Morocco has been
governed by Law 10-95 (1995). This law is the third action plan to pull water policy in Morocco, the first
one, in 1967 was dominated by the construction of large irrigation dams, and the second, by 1984,
focused on developing small and medium-sized dams. The implementation of the law (10-95) is entrusted
to basin agencies that must rely on a set of principles which deal with a) the public nature of water
resources; b) planning and resource allocation based on consultation with stakeholders; c) the regulation
of activities to deal with the scarcity, vulnerability and the risks inherent in the use of water resources.


The main problem in the Souss-Massa basin is the integrated management of water resources. The basin
area of Souss-Massa covers approximately 28000 km2 for a potential irrigable land in the order of
250000 ha. The catchment area is served by a set of eight dams to capacity ranging from 2 Mm3 and 180
Mm3 allowing a maximum storage in surface waters of more than 450 Mm3, in addition, the plains above
two continuing aquifers with a capacity estimated at 467.7 Mm3. The region of Souss-Massa in itself
produces around 30% of citrus exports and 25% of vegetable production in Morocco. Along with the
strength of its agricultural development, the region of Souss-Massa, especially the Agadir urban region is
also a very popular tourist destination, the leading one in Morocco. The development of SIAD_TIGERS
and the implementation of applications were especially designed to meet the needs of the ABSHM
Agency in carrying out its mission coming from the Bill 10-95. On the basis of the scarce water resource
of the region, it embraces from water quantity or quality, structures, distribution, risk associated with
floods, royalties, to education relate to water stakes.
To embrace such a mission, the Agency must take into account the social dimensions, the dynamics of
space-time changes as well as the legal and institutional aspects. In the purpose to help this decision-
making process, we have worked with the Agency, to highlight particular issues and to offer appropriate
solutions, by example: 1) for the planning problem: How to grant concessions and ensure the proper
management of water resources in the basin? We implemented the SIAD_TIGERS decision support
system. 2) for the information problem: How to improve knowledge of the trends (short and long term) the
effect of changes in land cover land use? We prepared a multi-scale land use land cover information base
(LULC) 3) for the management problem: How to manage the dam and reservoirs to provide the best
allocation of water, taking into account the year to year variation of the rain also to cope with risks of
water shortage or mitigate the effect of drought? We elaborated a reservoir Management tool 4) for the
protection problem: How to better protect the population from the devastating effects of flash floods and
torrential floods? We developed a flood mapping application 5) for the problem of Prevention: How to
avoid overuse of the groundwater, the detection of new groundwater potentialities and awareness of the
actors in relation to these challenges? We engineered an application on the global-local management for

SIAD_TIGERS proposes an ensemble of solutions based on GIS, tools for decision support, graphical
representations and systems modeling. Through SIAD_TIGERS, we have developed a comprehensive
understanding (conceptual) of the different issues affecting the management of water resources in the
basin of Souss-Massa. This comprehensive understanding has been later translated into a data model
(with different phases conceptual, logical and physical). The data model was implemented and organized
to simulate the conditions regulating the Souss-Massa basin and to answer problems identified with the
decision makers of the basin agency. A set of applications was later developed that take advantage of the
capabilities of coupling Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and modeling tools (groundwater
management, reservoir management, water erosion, and flood). This implementation has been carried
out in three main phase: 1) Conceptualization incorporating various phases of data modeling and
implementation of the geodatabase 2) Operational capabilities consisting of demonstrating the
operational capabilities of SAID_TIGERS through the resolution of targeted spatial problems 3) Ease of
use corresponding to the development of a toolbar integrating the main applications developed within


4.1 Development of the Conceptual Model of the Geodatabase

SIAD_TIGERS has been designed to answer some lead-questions: How to improve the decisionmaking
process in the basin and ensure proper management of water resources in the basin? And second, how
to improve knowledge on short and long term trends and the effect in land use changes? SAID_TIGERS
must meet the purpose of assisting in the management of the basin. The system has been structured
gradually through different phases from the conceptual model, to logical and physical model. The
achievement of these models required a data enrichment (inventory, updating and structuring spatial
data) a paradigm change in data organization from the point of view of the customer (theme, service) to a
data organization from the point of view of the decision making process using a spatial platform data,
highlighting the functional relationships by attributes or spatial interactions.

The achievement of SIAD-TIGERS took place in two phases: the first phase consisted of the constitution
of the geodatabase following the data model of ArcHydro, after an iterative consulting process with the
stakeholders and engineers working at the agency at the conceptual step. The second phase focused on
the actual implementation of the different tool in ArcGIS. ArcHydro represents one of the most achieved
object-relational geodatabase framework for geospatial data and temporal support for hydrological
modeling (quantity and quality) and decision-making. The second stage consisted in data collection,
image acquisition, and data integration including image processing and extraction of derived products.

4.2 Geodatabase Implementation

The implementation of the database includes data collection, digitization, geoprocessing and structuring.
The data is organized according to three approaches: a) thematic b) spatial and c) temporal. Thematic:
The data of the project is structured into main themes: the biophysical and socio-economic profiles.
Spatial: The data are integrated to ensure continuity of the analysis using different scales and spatial
reference: 1) Souss-Massa whiting Morocco; 2) the watershed of the Souss-Massa 3) the sub-
watersheds; Temporal: All hydrometeorological and hydrological data are available in time series. The
time perspective will be used particularly for the hydrological modeling, the study of risks associated with
flood and the reservoir management. Different layers of information covering bio-physical, administrative,
economic and social management of the basin have been collected. The satellite images from Landsat
and SPOT were purchased to develop land use. The RADARSAT images were used to prepare the
terrain analysis digital elevation model, slopes, and lineaments.

Figure 1 SIAD_TIGERS conceptual framework

4.3 Updating the Spatial Information

Updating the spatial information was at the heart of the realization of SIAD_TIGERS. Decisionmaking
processes on the territory and the basin environment are deficient in the Souss-Massa region. To solve
the problem of spatial information availability, one of the main purposes of the implementation of
SIAD_TIGERS was the development of geospatial information including the effect of changes in the land
use / land cover (LULC) and the short - long term trends through the use of remote sensing images. First,
radar images (RADARSAT) were used to extract digital elevation model (DEM). From these images and
DEM, terrain attributes were extracted (slope, lineaments, drainage network, and so on.). These images
were later used in the preparation of maps of LULC. Once this first step of establishing and updating the
geodatabase was completed, a second phase consisting of the development of new information on the
dynamics of the evolution of land use in the region was implemented. Image data available since 1987
and the acquisition of recent images have provided information on the state of the land use for the
reference years (1987, 2002 and 2006) in order to determine the state of development and change
detection in the watershed between the three marked years (87-02, 02-06, 87-06). However, this
resolution (30 m) and approaches cannot meet the project objectives especially at the local level. A
second approach has been implemented for the achievement of LULC on pilot areas in finer resolutions
(less than 5 m). The maps at the local level were developed for three sites: a) Ouled Berhil, with insight in
the expansion of irrigated land b) Irherm with insight in the evaluation of the groundwater potential c)
Agadir with insight in the land monitoring in the urban area and thereafter, the interferometry study for
some possible subsidence effects in urbanized areas. The maps of land for the area of Ouled Berhil cover
an area of 780 km2 on a scale of the order of 1:25000. In addition, SPOT images from March 2006,
September 2006 and May 2007 were also used. These multi-date maps allow a better understanding of
the dynamics of uncontrolled drilling and the expansion of irrigated plots upstream of the irrigated plain.
The study of LULC shows the accelerating transformation of land development since 2002 for agriculture
to the detriment of the arganier forest, a classified one by UNESCO. The greenhouses, as an indicator of
the intensity of agricultural production, have increased at the same time as the urbanized areas have
spread in the suburban areas of Agadir. The precariousness of the availability of water in the farms
located downstream encourages some farmers to move into the upstream region. Earth observation
products can be used to monitor the progression of the phenomenon practically in real time with the use
of multitemporal data and high resolution for 2006/2007 in areas of interest in Ouled Berhil. This new
territorial knowledge enables the Agency to better enforce red zones, to challenge vested interests, and
above all to better manage the territorial resources at local level.

4.4 Operational capabilities

The many issues associated with the management of water in the context of sustainable development,
the complexity and scale make it a daunting task when it comes to decisionmaking. The implemented
application is a way to show and experiment with the Agency the relevance and capacity of
SIAD_TIGERS to deal with real problems. These applications, whenever possible, were developed with
both a global and a local perspective. The applications developed a set of products providing a better
understanding of the project areas relative to the availability of ground water both globally (all of Souss-
Massa watershed) and locally (for Irherm); environmental vulnerability to inundation and flash flooding for
the overall watershed and the local (Souss) reach at (Taroudant); dams and reservoir management (Ben
Youssef TachFine (YBT) and AbdelMoumen (ABD)) and finally, erosion (overall Souss-Massa, reservoirs
intake watershed). It is important to outline the various applications and how they help illustrate the
potential of SIAD_TIGERS for the Agency.

4.4.1 Evaluation of Groundwater Potential

Groundwater is an alternative source of water for consumption, agriculture and recreation. The Souss
Massa basin contains one of the largest aquifers in Morocco. The growth of agriculture in this region
relies for a good part on the groundwater availability. However, in mountain regions, as Irherm, water is
scarce; drilling realized for human consumption has known little success. The assessment of potential
groundwater will enable the Agency to achieve a dual purpose. On a global level, it will have better
information about the potential of the whole basin. At the local level, particularly in Irherm, supplies for the
population which rely on rain water (when available) drilling using SIAD_TIGERS aim at producing maps
of groundwater potential that are most conducive to the detection of confined groundwater and improving
the success rate of drilling. This mapping required the pretreatment of RADARSAT-1 images to extract a
map of lineaments, which has been corrected according to the information on the geological map and
field data. Thereafter, an empirical model that combines the density of faults, the annual precipitation,
lithology, lineaments density, land use and elevation, slope, drainage density and soil type was applied.

In general terms, the methodology has confirmed the potential of the region of the plain of the Souss. The
study located in the region of Irherm enables the Agency to better focus the drilling plans in the area of
more potential.
Figure 2 Ground water potential for Irherm Morocco

4.4.2 Reservoir Management

About eight reservoirs with different capacities have been erected on the territory of the Souss- Massa
basin. Managers of the Agency have always been interested in seeing how the products of earth
observation and geomatics could help in the management of these reservoirs for: a) a better
understanding of the water flow, b) a better balance of the water stored in the reservoirs based on pre-
established scenarios; and c) a better distribution of water available among the different categories of
users. The implementation of this module implies interaction between hydrological and reservoir
simulation models with the other data modules across SIAD_TIGERS: water level in the dam, rainfall,
solar radiation, flow, and temperature.
Figure 3 YBT Reservoir simulation showing the input flow, the simulated (SIM) and the observed volume

4.4.4 Flood Mapping

Although the region of Souss and Morocco generally evoke a sense of precariousness of water
availability, it is however important to note that this region is also exposed to torrential rain and flash
floods that can cause considerable damage to humans and property. Faced with the problem of
protection, the question is of how best to protect the public in relation to the devastating effects of floods
and flash floods through the use of integrated tools in SIAD_TIGERS. An empirical model that combines
land use, elevation, slope, drainage network, distance to the drainage network, soil type and population
density was applied to develop flood maps for the area. These maps were refined by flood areas from an
empirical terrain study. One of these points on the river Souss at Taroudant was selected for a detailed
study with hydraulic simulation. The rainfallrunoff management systems and flood alerts in SIAD_TIGERS
incorporate the HEC-HMS model for hydrological forecasting, and the HEC-RAS model for hydraulic
Figure 4 Flood hazard in the Souss-Massa basin, the background image of Taroudant is from Google

This project provides a good illustration of the relevance of the integration of knowledge, knowhow and
data from earth observation, GIS, and different types of modeling tools for water management. The
applications provided will improve the management and decision making in the Souss-Massa basin
compared to the erosion, dam’s sedimentation, reservoir management flood and flood mapping; as well
as groundwater potential in addition to tracking changes in land cover land use. This project is a good
example for many other applications based on the integration of remote sensing, GIS and decision
support system for the management of natural resources such as agriculture, forestry, water, soil,
planning, risk management, as well as different categories of decision-making issues which many
countries face.

Acknowledgements: This project was funded in part by the Canadian Space Agency. The authors thank
the Souss-Massa Hydraulic Basin Agency (AHBSM) for the time series data and the Morocco Royal
Center for Remote Sensing for their help in building the database and Bouma S. for the cartographic


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