3WATER MANAGEMENT, POLICIES AND LEGISLATION RELATED TO WATER USE IN LEBANESE AGRICULTURE
By. Pr. Maroun El Moujabber (CIHEAM-IAMB)
In 2000, the Government of Lebanon approved a reorganization plan of water management sector, including irrigation, potable and waste waters. Law No. 241 (29/5/2000) reorganizes the existing 22 water boards into four Regional Water Authorities; North Lebanon (covering the Governorate of North Lebanon), Beirut and Mount Lebanon (covering the Governorates of Beirut and Mount Lebanon), South Lebanon (covering the Governorates of South Lebanon and Nabatiyeh) and Bekaa (covering the Governorate of Bekaa). The aim of the reorganization plan was to attain better level of management, maintenance and effectiveness in the water sector in Lebanon. The four water authorities are in charge of managing potable, irrigation and waste waters, and they work under the auspices of the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW), the one responsibilities extend to water policy planning at national level, measurement of water stream in rivers and measurement of groundwater recharge, construction of water storage capacities (dams, reservoirs and earth ponds), quality monitoring system of potable and treated waters and legislation. The responsibilities of the water authorities include study, rehabilitation, execution and management of water projects in the country (adduction and distribution network); and of the water quality control and water pricing. The Litani River Authority (LRA) is the only water authority to retain special responsibilities and functions that extend beyond its administrative region (natural boundaries of the Litani watershed). The LRA continues to be responsible for developing and manage irrigation water and associated works in the southern Bekaa and South Lebanon. Law 221/2000 provides a two-year transitional period for reorganizing the existing water boards into regional water authorities. Furthermore, the Litani River Authority is in charge of measuring surface water measurement along the Lebanese territory. Other institutional actors are the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the one responsibility is agricultural extension, the Ministry of Environment (MoE), which is responsible for water quality monitoring programs and the Green Plan (GP), which works under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Agriculture and is responsible for constructing earth ponds and small water reservoirs.
The legal framework in Lebanon is generally outdated. Nearly all laws and regulations for water quality and water resources protection date back to the time of French colonialism in 1925. A few complementary application decrees have been issued. In addition to those are also a few laws covering wastewater disposal, solid waste discharge, industrial wastewater discharge, and other water pollutants. The main legal texts covering water are:
- Order No. 144, 1925: Protection of Surface Water and Groundwater Resources
- Order No. 320, 1926: Protection of Catchment Areas
- Decree No. 639, 1942: Protection of Nabaa Al Assal Spring, Faraya
- Decree No. 10276, 1962: Protection Zones for Water Sources and Recharge Areas
- Decree No. 14438, 1970: Restrictions on the Depth of Unlicensed Boreholes
- Decree No 14522, 1970: allocation of water resources for areas south of Beirut River to the southern Border
- Decree No. 8735, 1974: Pollution from Solid and Liquid Waste
- Law No. 64, 1988: Pollution from Hazardous Waste
- Decision No. 2528/C, 1996: Protection of Groundwater at El Kneisse Mountain
- Decree No. 680, 1998: The Preservation and Protection of Boreholes.
One of the troublesome and urgent hydrological issues in Lebanon pertains to groundwater management. Order in Council 144 (10 June 1925) states that public property is any that may, by its very nature, be used by many people or for the benefit of the general public. Regardless of how much time may have passed in ownership or use of a certain land resource, such properties may not be sold or profited from, and they include surface and groundwater, lakes, rivers, and lake and riverbanks. However, in the late 1960s, the legislation was amended to exclude wells drilled on private lands with an output of less than 100 m3/sec. Such wells must not pump water that possibly belongs to someone else or feeds into a river. Innumerable wells are found throughout Lebanon, especially in the Litani watershed, and for various reasons enforcement of existing laws is very lax to nonexistent.
The technical aspects of irrigation management imply the implementation of cost-benefit analyses for medium and large irrigation projects, and cost-recovery of water over time. Historically, the utilization of large-size pumps to lift water from deeper wells combined with the cost of pumping irrigation water have led to higher costs of irrigation water to farmers, which were inevitable. Add to this, the quality of water available to farmers has shown a gradual deterioration due to overestimation of agricultural inputs. However, the small size of irrigation schemes and land fragmentation, and the weakness of services have left a gap in water management policy in Lebanon. Experience related to local water management derives from specific cases of rehabilitation of public schemes using both traditional and pressurized irrigations systems, while in private schemes a notable experience was gained in irrigation management because of more investments in this sector. However, the post-war period has featured an ever increased concern on water management issues, such as such the use of water harvesting techniques and the use of appropriate irrigation methods instead of traditional irrigation. Research conducted at the Department of Irrigation and Agro-Meteorology of the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) focus on improving water use efficiency in irrigated and rain fed agriculture (Karam et al, 2003, 2005, 2006). Field research dealing with supplemental irrigation of cereals and legumes represents an important topic due to its importance in increasing yield under scarce water environments. However, the dissemination of results and knowledge transfer to end users at on-farm level is still inadequate.
In some public schemes operating on demand, water management was applied with an engineering approach aiming at improving network performance and distribution uniformity, and application of a sustainable water tariff system. However, the absence of water user associations was behind the gap in water management at scheme and on-farm levels, while in private irrigation schemes experience in water management was gained due to the ever increasing investment in this sector and to the presence of highly qualified human skills. To overcome problems related to water scarcity, the Lebanese Government started in early ninety's a water management policy based on:
Rehabilitation of the already existing irrigation schemes;
Reorganization of water sector;
Launch of the ten-year Master Plan of water storage in dams and earth ponds;
Implementation of new irrigation schemes using advanced pressurized distribution systems.