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Atlas of Lebanon

Part 6 - Crisis-Striken Public Services

Lebanon, a Water Tower?

Christèle Allès

Texte intégral

1Water in Lebanon is strongly linked to identity issues. The contrast between its green mountains and the aridity of the Syrian plains has indeed allowed it to affirm its specificity in the Near-East region. In the period of post-independence nation-building, Lebanon was proclaimed a “gift from the Litani” and its watery mountains the “skeleton of the Lebanese unity”. However, this abundance is nowadays threatened by an increase in needs, especially domestic and agricultural ones. Only drastic measures aimed at limiting waste and losses will make it possible to maintain the balance between available resources and exploitation in the decades to come.

A relatively water-rich country in the region

2As the average rainfall is close to 855 mm/yr, Lebanon is a relatively water-rich country in the region, which contributed to its reputation of being a water tower. Its “Levantine” climate, marked by rains mostly occurring between November and April and a strong summer season, has given birth to about 40 main watercourses, only 17 of which are perennial. They are distributed in two major groups. On the one hand, three big watersheds account for nearly 44% of the country’s surface area: the Litani (2,140 sq. km), the Orontes (1,720 sq. km) and the Hasbani (680 sq. km). On the other hand, several costal watercourses come out of sources located in Mount Lebanon to reach the Mediterranean Sea.

3In addition, groundwater amounts to about 18% of the country’s resources and ensures that numerous watercourses remain perennial, fueled by the karst sources which are located across the territory. Rivers and sources are greatly affected by intra-annual irregularity: 75% of the river discharge occurs between January and May, 16% between June and July, and 9% between August and October. As for the sources, only 17% of their total annual discharge is available during the summer.

Figure VI-2: The distribution of water resources in Lebanon

Figure VI-2: The distribution of water resources in Lebanon

4All the hydrological data series are to be taken cautiously. The stations were only partially renovated after the Civil War and their number of employees is not high enough to ensure an efficient monitoring. The assessment of the resources is often based on data series dating back to the 1960s and 1970s and may distinctly change depending on the authors read. We most often chose to use data published by the Ministry of Energy and Water.

A risk of water scarcity?

Figure VI-3: Renewable water resources per capita: Lebanon in its region

Figure VI-3: Renewable water resources per capita: Lebanon in its region

5The relatively abundant rainfall should not conceal a situation that has become rather difficult. The available freshwater resources per capita still make Lebanon one of the most privileged countries in the region but, since 2014, the “water tower” has exceeded the threshold used by the UN to identify cases of water shortage.

6A comparison between water demand, exploited volumes, and renewable resources nonetheless reveals a more nuanced situation. The current demand is indeed far below the exploitable resources but the balance seems precarious. The optimistic projections published by the Lebanese Ministry of Energy and Water regarding the evolution of water demand until 2030 rely on a forecasted moderate population growth and on the implementation of public policies aimed at improving the efficiency of drinking water supply systems and irrigation techniques. Without these measures, Lebanon is likely to consume more than 100% of its water resources by the mid-2020s according to the World Bank. Moreover, the water supply is currently barely sufficient to satisfy the demand and does not do so in a sustainable way.

Figure VI-4: The evolution in water demand in Lebanon between 2010 and 2013

Figure VI-4: The evolution in water demand in Lebanon between 2010 and 2013

7At the moment, the consumption of surface water is very limited and the needs are largely satisfied by a massive use of groundwater resources. They currently cover 50% of the needs in the agricultural sector and 80% of the needs in drinking water. Partly uncontrolled, this exploitation has already led to a decrease in the aquifers levels and to major intrusions of salted sea water in the most densely populated coastal areas.

Figure VI-5: The various water sources exploited in Lebanon in 2010

Figure VI-5: The various water sources exploited in Lebanon in 2010

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure VI-2: The distribution of water resources in Lebanon
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13286/img-1.png
Fichier image/, 635k
Titre Figure VI-3: Renewable water resources per capita: Lebanon in its region
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13286/img-2.png
Fichier image/, 28k
Titre Figure VI-4: The evolution in water demand in Lebanon between 2010 and 2013
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13286/img-3.png
Fichier image/, 30k
Titre Figure VI-5: The various water sources exploited in Lebanon in 2010
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13286/img-4.png
Fichier image/, 37k

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