Everything You Need to Know About Lebanon’s Water Shortage
According to Lebanon’s meteorological service, this year the country received just 431mm of precipitation since September – which is less than half of last year’s 905.8mm, and significantly lower than the yearly average of 812mm. The last time Lebanon experienced water levels so low was in 1932. At that time, only 335mm of precipitation was recorded for the year. Plus, around that time, the population was almost half of the current four million (plus one million Syrian refugees) that we have today.
Future forecasts do not bode well, and with conditions expected to get even worse, farmers are already reporting crop losses, and, in Beirut, some citizens have been forced to buy their water from private suppliers to compensate for the low flow from the state.
Here’s everything you need to know about Lebanon’s water shortage.
As mentioned, the main problem is that Lebanon is facing the driest year on record for the country in decades.
Usually, farmers irrigate their fields by digging channels that carry water from local rivers or wells, which are replenished by rainfall, to their fields. This year, the rain and snow that fill up these rivers and wells did not arrive. Because of this, farmers are being forced to pump up groundwater for irrigation. However, if the drought continues into the coming year, only about five percent of that groundwater will be left.
The country experienced an unseasonably warm and extremely dry winter – so much so that Lebanon’s famed ski resorts were only able to open for two days the entire winter (whereas the beach resorts have been up and running since early April).
Moreover, the massive influx of refugees flooding Lebanon from neighboring Syria have added a great strain on the already weary situation. Back in February, the Daily Star newspaper reported that the UN refugee agency UNHCR warned that the presence of the refugees, which have surpassed the one million mark, would seriously deplete the country’s renewable water resources.
Regardless, Fadi Comair, the Director General of Hydraulic and Electric Resources at the Energy Ministry, has stated that even under the best circumstances, Lebanon has trouble managing its water resources. Only two dams exist in the entire country, and around 70% of the water that moves through Lebanon’s 16 rivers ends up in the Mediterranean. Comair explained that up to 48% of the water that we do manage to collect ends up getting lost due to leakage and poor infrastructure.
Unfortunately, aside from warning citizens and urging them to conserve water, not much is being done. The Energy and Water Ministry have repeatedly called on citizens to try their best to reduce their water usage, urging them to refrain from washing cars and utilize personal water usage with frugality.
A water crisis plan put forth to parliament by MP Mohammad Qabbani was dismissed after being deemed unrealistic by experts, claiming that many parts of the plan, such as infrastructure enforcement mechanisms and legal grounds, were missing. The proposed plan would have had the government declare a “state of water emergency” and calls for strict restrictions on water use, including a suspension on irrigation for seasonal crops in exchange for compensation to farmers and a ban on washing cars and sidewalks and watering lawns, under threat of fine.
Lebanon also rejected a plan to import water from Turkey to help ease the effects of the drought, opting instead to plan on digging more wells and relying on groundwater for the time being.
One initiative organized by activities and civil society members, Blue Gold, aims to cap water loss and works to better manage water resources. Their proposals include better storage facilities and monitoring, wastewater treatment and more water efficient households and crops – yet corruption and bureaucracy have limited the amount of improvement we can expect to reap from Blue Gold’s work.
So now that you know what’s going on, and probably blaming the government for everything, it’s your turn to help make things a little better for the entire community. The key here is consistency; if you plan to follow the suggestions put forth once or twice, well, you can’t expect to make much of a difference. However, if you take care of your water usage daily, these seemingly small actions can make all the difference in the world.
1. Check your faucets and pipes for leaks. You know that bathroom faucet in your house that constantly emits the annoying sound of water dripping? Get it fixed. It can waste up to 20 GALLONS PER DAY.
2. Install water-saving shower heads. These are really cheap and you can find them virtually everywhere – even your local dikken. They can save up to 2.5 gallons per minute!
3. Take shorter showers. Girls, this one is for you. We know you love to condition and exfoliate and shampoo and moisturize your precious long locks, but if you want to be taking showers a year from now, you’ll get everything done in half the time you normally do.
4. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth/shaving/washing your face. This is basic common sense.
5. Use your dishwasher and washing machine only for full loads. That one bra and pair of jeans can either wait until laundry day or be hand washed.
6. Don’t leave the water running when washing dishes by hand.
7. Water your plants only when they need it. Google —> type in search bar name of plant —> Wikipedia —> read how many times it needs to be watered —> only water it then.
For grass lawns, a good way to tell if it needs to be watered it to step on it. If the grass jumps back up when you move, it does not need watering. If it stays flat, go for it. Also, during a drought, you can let your grass go a little brown. When it’s over and you water it, it will return to normal.
8. Don’t wash your car very often, and don’t let the hose run while washing it.
9. If you’re planning on installing a new AC, go for the air-to-air system, not the water-to-air-system. Air-to-air systems are much more efficient and do not use any water.