Agriculture and more precisely irrigation sector have always suffered from a lack of incentives to farmers. Water assigned by rotation and/or with a fixed flow rate hampers application of water-saving techniques. It also prevents incentives to saving such as volume-related price structures. In addition, even where water intake is metered, levies amount to a minimal fraction of the value of yield of cash crops. Indeed, water prices perceived as high (in the range of prices that are seen socio-economically acceptable) have a very weak effect on farmers’ behavior. An example of these incentives was the one offered by the public sector, which provided farmers in South Bekaa Irrigation Scheme with irrigation equipments to efficiently irrigate 900 ha of reclaimed soils. This helped to drop water use per ha from 15000 m3/year, where furrow irrigation was used, to 6500 m3/year. In Other irrigated areas, the drip irrigation contributed to water saving of more than 50% with respect to furrow irrigation. Although drip irrigation is efficient, it is energy and capital intensive and requires fairly clean water so that its fine delivery tubes do not clog up.
Between January 1, 1992 and December 31, 2000, The Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) awarded 129 contracts worth a total of US$409.2 million in the water supply sector in Lebanon (CDR, 2001). Per March 2001, 60% of the awarded projects were completed. About 95% of the contracts were capital costs, almost 4% consisted in technical assistance and only 1% for operation and maintenance.
3.4Policies and legislation
Water sector in Lebanon has always suffered from a lack of a shared policy: In this respect, it is claimed that the criterion for allocation should be economic water use efficiency, which is the cash produced per unit intake of water, and that only “high” water prices coupled to a free water market can deliver that. However, it is recognized that there are barriers to the application of a strict pricing mechanism, such as: feasibility (water is often not metered); existing legal and historical water rights; and a social atmosphere whereby water is perceived as common heritage. Therefore, price differentiation, as a means to deal with scarcity, is an option presently available only to a relatively small number of well-equipped irrigation consortia in regions where it is legally feasible and socially acceptable. Nowadays, there is general agreement that water resources are being presently depleted and that this rate is not sustainable. Scarce water sources are already being used for high-value crops, consider, for instance, the huge increase in protected cultivation area of vegetables, and water-delivery infrastructure is relatively advanced. Although the project is aimed at relatively advanced agricultural developments, it contains options that could be applied also in quite simple water sharing schemes. In order to ensure the right environment for “economic sound” decisions, it is aimed at high value and strategic crops, such as vegetables, orchards, potato, sugar beet, corn and legumes for both human and animal diets.
Law 221/2000 empowers regional water authorities to set and collect water tariffs for domestic and agricultural use. Subscription fees for domestic water supply vary among water boards. During the year 2001, tariffs ranged from LBP 65,000 per year to LBP 231,000 per year for 1m3/day gauge subscription. Differences are partly due to water availability and distribution costs as gravity distribution is cheapest, while distribution by pumping is far more expensive. In Beirut area, where water tariffs are high, water is conveyed long distances and/or pumped from deep wells. In some parts of Northern Lebanon, where water tariffs are low, water is available from springs and delivered by gravity.
Most households incur additional expenses to meet their water consumption. Assuming households with a 1m3/day gauge subscription actually receive and consume this amount of water per day such households would be paying the equivalent of US$ 0.12/m3 to US$ 0.42/m3 of water. In fact, most households end up paying much more on a per cubic meter basis for two main reasons; (i) frequent and periodic water shortages and (ii) need to buy water from private haulers, at costs typically around US$ 5 to US$ 10 per cubic meter. In public irrigation schemes using gravity distribution systems water is charged at a flat rate per cropped area, except in modern irrigation schemes of the Litani where water is delivered by means of pressurized pipes, volumetric metering is provided. This is the case of the Saida-Jezeen irrigation scheme, and in some parts of South Bekaa Irrigation Scheme. In the fist case, water is charge varies between US$ 260/ha in Qasmieh-Ras-El Ain Irrigation scheme in South Lebanon to 30-150 US$/ha in Danneyeh and Akkar irrigation schemes in Northern Lebanon.
3.6Environment and health
Water quality is adversely affected by industrial, agricultural and domestic wastewaters. Leaching of pesticides and fertilizers from agriculture causes ground and surface water pollution. Industrial activity releases a wide range of chemical effluents into water courses, especially surface and coastal waters. It is difficult to accurately estimate the pollution loads into water bodies from various economic sectors. Open dumping also impacts surface water quality. Unlike controlled landfills, which are equipped with basal lining systems to intercept leachate, open dumps release leachate directly into the environment. Leachate will seep into groundwater or runoff into nearby watercourse. The disposal of sewage and industry effluents into the sea and the rivers is frequently practiced in Lebanon. This is followed by abstraction from the rivers at a downstream level for water supply and irrigation uses. The latter are in some cases extended to salad vegetables. Discharge of untreated sewage water into the sea was the common practice being used (World Bank, 1994). A National Emergency Reconstruction Program (NERP) was launched in early ninety’s, which conceived the design and construction of discharge networks of wastewater and the implementation of treatment plants in almost all the Lebanese coastal and inland cities. The program was funded through a World Bank loan. In 1995, a Damage Assessment Report was prepared to formulate a policy framework for the wastewater sector across the country.
In 1995, a Damage Assessment Report was prepared to formulate a policy framework for the wastewater sector (Khatib & Alami, 1995). Implemented over three phases, the resulting National Emergency Response Program (NERP) launched two major programs:
- Coastal Pollution Control Program (CPCP); and
- Water Resources Protection Program (WRPP).
The CPCP represents Lebanon’s commitment to fulfilling the requirements of the Barcelona Convention and its protocols. Despite the cancellation in the late nineties of the World Bank loan to fund wastewater management works in Saida, Sour, and Kesrouane, CPCP is proceeding with alternative funding from various sources. Works under the WRPP include the rehabilitation of water treatment plants and water sources (springs and wells), as well as the rehabilitation and construction of transmission and distribution networks
Health impacts due to poor water quality are a major concern in Lebanon. In general, waterborne diseases, especially diarrhea diseases, are one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity among children less than five years old. In addition, health problems resulting from exposure to water pollutants often result in health care expenditures and absence from work. In addition to health impacts, poor water quality increases the costs of water treatment and encourages people to buy more bottled water than they would normally buy if they had access to good quality drinking water.