Tunisia - Country Commercial Guide
Pollution Control Equipment
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Leading Sub-Sectors

Water and Wastewater

Due to its arid and semi-arid climate, mismanaged water resources, and growing population, Tunisia faces increasingly severe water shortages, particularly in the summer.  The quality of water supplied by the national water utility Société Nationale d’Exploitation et de Distribution des Eaux (SONEDE) varies throughout the country and does not meet potability standards in some regions.  SONEDE operates 16 water treatment plants and 15 desalination plants throughout the country, serving 85.3% of the population.  In agricultural regions, agricultural development cooperatives utilize both shallow and deep wells and tap into SONEDE pumping stations and distribution networks.  Due to rainfall scarcity, aquifer levels are declining at an alarming rate.

Tunisia’s water code governs the allocation of water resources, with priority to the supply of potable water for urban consumers.  Less attention is given to the requirements of the country’s industrial, tourism, and agricultural sectors.  The GOT is currently working on reforming the water code and enacting new implementing decrees. 

Tunisia’s major urban areas, including Tunis, Sfax, Gabes, and Djerba, are confronting water supply constraints.  To promote water conservation and sustainability, the GOT recognizes the need to exploit non-conventional water resources, such as the reuse of reclaimed urban and industrial wastewater, desalination, artificial recharge, and rainwater harvesting.

In July 2021, SONEDE and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed a $287 million loan to fund the construction of a seawater desalination plant in Sfax (south) with a treatment capacity of around 100,000 m3/ day.  Plant construction began in April 2022 with a completion phase by 2024.  

In August 2023, SONEDE and JICA announced the start of a three-year cooperation agreement for assistance and transfer of water leakage detection technology to help Tunisia improve potable water conservation and distribution.  

Wastewater treatment is the responsibility of the Tunisia National Sanitation Utility (ONAS).  Tunisia has 123 wastewater treatment plants, collecting and treating approximately 287 million cubic meters of wastewater a year and serving 86.2% of the population.   Treated wastewater is distributed to farmland, golf courses, and green spaces, and is also used for groundwater recharge.  Sludge is treated, thickened, and de-watered before disposal in landfills.

Solid Waste Management

Tunisia has comprehensive environmental laws to encourage the sustainable management and recycling of municipal and industrial waste, but solid waste management remains a challenge for government authorities.  Increased investment is needed to ensure proper collection, treatment, and recycling of solid waste especially in the metropolitan areas of Tunis, Sousse, and Sfax.  Lack of citizen awareness and dysfunction of municipal and rural councils create additional challenges for maintaining existing waste management practices.  

According to the GOT, Tunisia’s total solid waste varies between 2 and 3.5 million tons per year, of which 85% is dumped in controlled landfills and the remainder is either recycled, composted, or dumped in non-controlled landfills.  These estimates may mask other problems, however, as many municipal landfills do not meet sanitary standards, and waste is often dumped into non-sanitary areas.  Since 2019, this situation has been creating recurrent social unrest and waste management crisis in the cities of Tunis, Djerba, and Sfax where citizens blocked the access to the landfills for several weeks in protest of the very poor sanitary standards.  The volume of domestic solid waste produced in the country is rising annually at 2.5%.  A resident in an urban area produces 0.82 kilograms of solid municipal waste per day; rural inhabitants produce only 0.15 kilograms.  The country has twelve operational landfills for municipal solid waste, of which eight are controlled by the government.  Tunisia also has one non-operational landfill for industrial waste.  Tax incentives are offered to companies to encourage waste reduction or outsourced recycling.


Approximately 400 private companies are authorized by the Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment to collect, transport, and recycle plastics.  The Ministry also authorized five private collectors and recyclers of used tires.   Paper and cardboard recycling is still in its infancy, but there is a small informal sector for recycling food packaging.


The market for environmental protection and pollution control equipment and technology has significant potential.  Anticipated tenders for landfill construction and management projects, coastal pollution cleanup projects, and wastewater treatment all offer good opportunities for U.S. companies.  U.S. exporters of these products and services face competition from European companies, which often provide attractive, government-backed financing.