Lebanon is often described as water-rich, mostly because water is visible everywhere. However, a closer look at supply and demand shows a different reality. Lebanon’s water sector is facing a serious problem in terms of water management and governance and the inability to provide even basic services. Without major reforms, the situation is unlikely to change. NWP member Fanack Water has released the Lebanon Water Report, a peer-reviewed document that provides a full picture of the Lebanese water sector.
In 2010, the Government of Lebanon adopted its first water policy strategy, the National Water Sector Strategy (NWSS), to ensure water supply, irrigation and sanitation services in the country on continuous basis and at optimal services levels. This strategy was to be implemented in a ten-year period. Yet, major water shortages are still being reported, and many projects that should have been completed in 2020 are still pending.
The updated NWSS, released in 2020, acknowledges the different challenges in the water sector, such as the lack of reliable data, fragmented institutions, and the lack of coordination between the different actors in the sector. However, the main issue remains the feasibility of implementing the proposed action plans. These will require not only a comprehensive managerial framework, but also strong political will and focus to tackle a rapidly worsening situation and ensure long-term sustainability of the resource.
The NWSS 2020 includes the realisation of several projects relating to five major topics:
Other infrastructure projects are also proposed, which are divided over three sectors: water, wastewater and irrigation. The projects have different priorities depending on urgency and impact.
Financing of the water sector
Regardless of the challenges in the water sector, the current economic crisis is pushing the sector to the brink of collapse. Insufficient revenue in a currency that continues to devalue is making it impossible to carry out the maintenance work that requires existing water infrastructure networks. The private sector has stepped in to fill critical gaps left by state institutions, with multinational private companies benefiting significantly from a dysfunctional sector. However, the Involvement of the private sector in the Lebanese water sector has traditionally been slow.
The absence of adequate local finances, a water policy and strong administration has led to water sector heavily dependent on foreign funding. Since 1992, it is estimated that around USD 3 billion in foreign funds have been directed to the water sector. The funding for the planned projects in the NWSS 2020 is also assumed to be from international sources, with limited projects funded locally.
Lebanon Water Report
NWP member Fanack Water has issued the Lebanon Water Report with well-researched information on the country’s water resources and a closer look at its water use, quality and management. For more detailed water information on Lebanon access the report.
Fellow members of NWP can also know more about the water sector in Lebanon, as well as in other countries in the Middle East and North Africa currently being researched by Fanack Water, at the summer NWP member meet-up on 8 September. Registration to this NWP member-only event closes on 7 September.