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International water issues

In 1978, Israel invaded Lebanon, giving Israel temporary control of the Wazzani spring/stream feeding the Jordan River.

In August of 1994, the Lebanese and Syrian governments reached a water-sharing agreement concerning the Asi-Orontes River, according to which Lebanon receives 80 million m3/year if the Asi-Orontes River’s flow inside Lebanon is 400 million m3 or more during that given year. If this figure falls below 400, Lebanon’s share is adjusted downward, relative to the reduction in flow. Wells in the river’s catchment area that were already operational before the agreement are allowed to remain in use, but no new wells are permitted. The Asi-Orontes River rises in an area north of the city of Ba’albeck and flows through the Syrian Arab Republic before entering Iskenderun (Alexandretta) and emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. The Al-Azraq spring is a very important Lebanese tributary to the Asi-Orontes River; its annual flow is more than 400 million m3 (Amery, 1998).

In 2002, the water resources of the Hasbani basin became a source of mounting tension between Lebanon and Israel, when Lebanon announced the construction of a new pumping station at the Wazzani springs. The springs feed the Hasbani river, which rises in the south of Lebanon and crosses the Blue Line frontier to feed the Jordan and subsequently the Sea of Galilee, which is used as Israel’s main reservoir. The pumping station was completed in October 2002. Its purpose was to provide drinking water and irrigation for some sixty villages on the Lebanese side of the Blue Line. October 2002 also marked the high point of tension between Israel and Lebanon, with a real risk of armed conflict over the station. The Israelis complained about the lack of prior consultation whereas the Lebanese contended that the project was consistent with the 1955 Johnston Plan for the water resources of the region. The EU and the United States both sent envoys to the region in late 2002 in response to the rising tensions (EU, 2004).


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