Regional Knowledge Network on Water


Lebanon is located east of the Mediterranean Sea and is bordered by Syria to the north and east and Occupied Palestine to the south. It has a total land area of 10,452 km² and a population of 5,882,562 people (July 2014 est.), but we must also consider that in May 2014, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) announced that there were officially 1,158,174 Syrian refugees and asylum seekers in Lebanon. The unofficial number is estimated to be much higher - around 2,300,000 Syrian refugees. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) announced that there were officially 450,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, which is almost 10% of Lebanon’s population.

The country is divided into four distinct physiographic regions: the coastal plain, the Lebanon mountain range, the Beqaa valley and the Anti-Lebanon mountains.

Lebanon has a moderate Mediterranean climate. In coastal areas, winters are generally cool and rainy whilst summers are hot and humid. In more elevated areas, temperatures usually drop below freezing during the winter with heavy snow cover that remains until early summer on the higher mountaintops.

Although most of Lebanon receives a relatively large amount of rainfall, when measured annually in comparison to its arid surroundings, certain areas in north-eastern Lebanon receive little because of rain shadow created by the high peaks of the western mountain range. It is one of the few countries in the Middle East with adequate water; rainfall is relatively plentiful and the country is blessed by several large rivers [3]. But the country's per capita renewable water resources are below the threshold of water poverty set at 1,000 cubic meter per capita and year. As already mentioned, in Lebanon there are about 6 million people. This means that to be above the water poverty line the country needs 4 billion cubic meters of water annually. The annual rainfall average is about 8 billion cubic meters. About 50% of the rainfall evaporates, while a lesser percentage is wasted [4].

Added to this is the waste caused by the Lebanese terrain and the amount of water seeping into the aquifer. The situation is particularly bad in hot summer months. The problem is caused by the fact that there are only a few places to store water. Also, too much of the country's potentially drinkable water, flows out to the Mediterranean. These problems are coupled with growing water demand and an old and leaky system of pipes and reservoirs [5].

If Lebanon does not upgrade its water network, experts warn there could be chronic water shortages in the country as soon as 2020. There are over 2,000 springs with a flow of 1.15 billion cubic meters, sustaining a perennial flow for 17 of the total of 40 major streams in the country. Springs and groundwater are today by far the main sources for drinking water supply in Lebanon.

The Government of Lebanon has been considering ways to improve the water supply in Greater Beirut since the early 1960s and has considered many sources of water supply. However, it is a massive undertaking. In addition to increasing the flow of drinkable water, it is also planned to improve pipes running into buildings.

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