For years, Lebanon has witnessed severe water supply shortages despite its tremendous water resources, and today the unsustainable economic conditions and climate change are leading to infrastructure deficit and suboptimal water resources management.
Lebanon has a high coverage rate of 78% in the water sector. However, it is still considered a water-scare country. Meanwhile, the supply is enormously low with Beirut and Mount Lebanon region have only 3 to 4 hours of daily water supply during the hot season. In addition, water storage is short to meet irrigation demand with surface water storage capacity is very low accounting for only 6% of total stored resources compared to the 85% average of the MENA region.
In its latest August report, UNICEF has alerted that over 71% of the Lebanese might lose access to water amid the current water scarcity situation. In turn, more than 4 million people are directly threatened as most water pumping would progressively cease across Lebanon in the next period. In addition, UNICEF is expecting that water costs would jump by 200% by next year due to the need of securing water from alternative or private water suppliers. Consequently, this dysfunctional sector is at risk of collapse due to the current situation.
Furthermore, UNICEF-supported assessment-based data collected in May and June 2021 showed that almost 1.7 million people have access to only 35 liters a day, 80% less than the national average of 165 liters before year 2020. The report also stated that water utility providers are not able to afford maintenance costs. Blackouts and an intermittent power supply are adding enormous stress on the water sector in interrupting the cycle, pumping and distribution of water.
Moreover, UNICEF affirmed that Lebanon can totally cover its 1,935,000,000 m3 of national water demand once all renewable water resources are exploited and, in that case, could stand at 3,258,000,000 m3. However, today’s available water supply stood at 700,000,000 m3 only, 21.49% of the potential water resources. Lastly, water and wastewater infrastructure in Lebanon needs urgent improvements to insure efficient and sufficient water services to the Lebanese; and should be part of any reform and recovery plan put forward by the government and development and international financial institutions. In fact, it is truly a shame that the country has mismanaged its water bounty and denied this crucial, yet potentially available, resource to be enjoyed by its people.
The table below shows the current and the estimated water supply by UNICEF by 2025 and 2030 assuming no remedial action is undertaken to address the water situation:
Source: UNICEF, BLOMINVEST Bank