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Atlas of Lebanon

Part 6 - Crisis-Striken Public Services

A Water Tower under Pressure

Christèle Allès

Texte intégral

1The issue of water shortage in Lebanon also has to be tackled in terms of water quality. The absence of wastewater treatment represents a serious sanitary risk to a population that does not always have access to drinking water. In a context where water public services are deficient, access to drinking and domestic water is a clear indicator of social and spatial inequality in the Lebanese society.

The degradation of water resources

2The almost complete absence of wastewater treatment facilities has become the main factor of water pollution in the country. A scheme planning sanitation systems serving the whole territory has been prepared as early as 1982 but only 18% of the used water generated in Lebanon seem to be currently treated. Ten treatment plants have been brought into operation, including 6 of them between 2012 and 2015, which shows a recent improvement of the situation. It took six years for some plants to be opened, including in Tripoli and Nabatiyeh, because of delays in the construction of the sewer systems and uncertainties regarding their management. However, these facilities do not operate in full capacity (10% of their capacity was used in Tripoli and Nabi Younes in 2014, for example). The main plants, located along the coastline, like Ghadir in the southern suburb of Beirut or Saida, only provide a pretreatment (elimination of the biggest materials, stones and sands, etc.). In addition, about 60 municipal plants have been built thanks to international aid. Many of them are not functioning as the municipalities’ limited financial resources have hindered their long-term exploitation. In the areas served by a sewer system, most of the wastewater directly flows into the sea or into valleys, depending on the location of the urban centers.

3Consequently, the levels of water pollution have become extremely alarming, notably on the coast. The surveys conducted at the mouth of some coastal rivers and on beaches have sometimes revealed bacteria rates that are significantly above sanitary norms, which can be explained by the high concentration of wastewater. This pollution constitutes a danger for the bathers and the coastal ecosystems.

Figure VI-6: Factors and indicators of water pollution

Figure VI-6: Factors and indicators of water pollution

Unequal access to drinking water

4Despite the large-scale reconstruction initiative launched after the end of the Civil War, more than 20% of the Lebanese households still do not benefit from an access to a drinking water supply network. The rural areas of the Bekaa Valley, and even more of the North, are the worst off. In these regions, dispersed housing units, underdevelopment and delays in the renovation of the networks are combined and lead to situations where coverage rates sometimes barely reach 40% (cazas of the Akkar and Bcharreh).

5The central region is the one experiencing the severest shortages. Water is supplied only three hours per day during the summer and even not supplied at all in some western neighborhoods of Beirut from September to December. If water production may sometimes be insufficient, the losses occurring on the network also have to be challenged in a context where 45% of the systems used for transfers and 33% of the ones used for distribution are more than 30 years old.

Figure VI-7: Unequal access to the public water supply system in 2010

Figure VI-7: Unequal access to the public water supply system in 2010

6The use of alternative solutions is thus unavoidable. The purchase of bottled water, the delivery of water by tanker trucks, and private wells supplement or replace a deficient public supply system. 307 million US$, that being 1.3% of the GDP, are annually spent in the water sector in addition to the subscriptions to the public service, accounting for more than three times the total amount of the yearly government expenditures in the sector (0.5% of the GDP). Far more expensive than the public service, these solutions can greatly impact the budget of the poorest households without ensuring supply from a qualitative point of view. Thus, out of the nearly 800 companies providing bottled water, only about 10 of them have been accredited and the Ministry of Health declared in September 2015 that many of them were selling water considered unsuitable for consumption.

Figure VI-8: Portion of the household budget devoted to water by water source and region

Figure VI-8: Portion of the household budget devoted to water by water source and region

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure VI-6: Factors and indicators of water pollution
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13288/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 354k
Titre Figure VI-7: Unequal access to the public water supply system in 2010
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13288/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 111k
Titre Figure VI-8: Portion of the household budget devoted to water by water source and region
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13288/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 27k

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