Oases are complex and fragile agro-ecosystems. They have always existed in environments characterized by an arid climate, scarcity of rainfall, high temperatures and high evaporation. These palms have grown up despite the severity of the physical characteristics thanks to the water's existence and irrigation practice. The oases are generally spread along non-perennial rivers (wadis), shallow water table or deep artesian groundwater. However, the sustainability of oasis system is threatened by water scarcity and declining of water table levels particularly in arid areas. Located in the southern east area of Morocco, Tafilalet plain encompasses one of the largest palm groves in the kingdom. In recent years, this area has become increasingly threatened by water shortage and has seen a sharp deterioration under the effect of several combined anthropogenic and climatic factors. The Bayoud disease, successive years of drought, Hassan Addakhil dam construction etc are all factors that have affected both water and phoenicicole heritage of the area. The objective of this study is to understand the interaction between qualitative and quantitative degradation of groundwater resources, and the palm grove dynamics, while reviewing the assumption that groundwater resources contribute in a direct way to the conservation of this oasis agroecosystem. A historical analysis tracing both the oasis dynamics and the groundwater evolution has been established. Data were collected from satellite images, surveys with different actors (farmers, Regional Office for Agricultural Development, Basin agency...). They were complemented by a synthesis of numerous technical reports in the area. The results showed that within 40 years, the thickness of the groundwater table has dropped in 50 %. Along with this, there has been a downsizing of date palm by 50 %. Areas with higher groundwater level were the least affected by the downsizing. So we can say that the shallow groundwater contribute significantly and directly to the water supply of date palm through its root system, and largely ensures the oasis ecosystem sustainability.
In oases, the surface water resources are becoming increasingly scarce and groundwater resources, which generally have a poor quality due to the high levels of salinity, are often overexploited. Water saving have therefore become imperative for better oases sustainability. If drip irrigation is currently recommended in Morocco for saving water and valuing, its use in the sub-desert areas does not keep water safe from high evaporation rates. An alternative to this system would be the use of subsurface drip irrigation. This technique is defined as an application of water under the soil surface through drippers, which deliver water at rates generally similar to surface drip irrigation. As subsurface drip irrigation is a recently introduced in Morocco, a better understanding of the infiltration process around a buried source, in local conditions, and its impact on plant growth is necessarily required. This study aims to contribute to improving the water use efficiency by testing the performance of subsurface irrigation system, especially in areas where water is a limited source. The objectives of this research are performance evaluation in arid conditions of the subsurface drip irrigation system for young date palms compared to the surface drip. In this context, an experimental test is installed at a farmer’s field in the area of Erfoud (Errachidia Province, southeastern Morocco), using the subsurface drip irrigation system in comparison with the classic drip system for young date palms. Flow measurement to calculate the uniformity of the application of water was done through two methods: a flow measurement of drippers above the surface and another one underground. The latter method has also helped us to estimate losses through evaporation for both irrigation techniques. In order to compare the effect of two irrigation modes, plants were identified for each type of irrigation to monitor certain agronomic parameters (cumulative numbers of palms and roots development). Experimentation referred to a distribution uniformity of about 88%; considered acceptable for subsurface drip irrigation while it is around 80% for the surface drip irrigation. The results also show an increase in root development and in the number of palm, as well as a substantial water savings due to lower evaporation losses compared to the classic drip irrigation. The results of this study showed that subsurface drip irrigation is an efficient technique, which allows sustainable irrigation in arid areas.