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Prospects for agricultural water management
The Water Plan 2000–2010 was published by MEW in 1999. It defines the strategy to satisfy Lebanon’s future water needs, estimated at 2.6 km3 in 2010 (Hamamy, 2007). The total cost will be US$1.327 billion, of which almost two-thirds is allocated to increasing the water supply through the construction of dams and reservoirs. The strategy consists of six parts:
- to increase the water supply by building 26 dams and 6 lakes, which will increase the storage capacity to 800 million m3 by 2010;
- to extend the drinking water projects, and develop, rehabilitate, and maintain the adduction networks;
- to increase the quantity of irrigation water;
- to build 20 wastewater treatment plants in 12 coastal regions until 2020 for the treatment of 80 percent of the produced volume of wastewater;
- to maintain and clean the river courses;
- to rehabilitate and extend electrical equipment in order to reach the villages not yet connected to the public utility network.
Public sector irrigation schemes suffer from poorly maintained distribution canals and ditches, leading to high water losses and low irrigation efficiencies (not exceeding 40 percent). Therefore, the focus should not only be on increasing the water supply, but also on improving water efficiency (water metering, removing illegal connections, introducing on-farm practices for the efficient use of irrigation water, etc.). In this respect, the establishment of water users’ associations (WUAs) is important since they create an essential link between the water-providing institutions and the farmers.
The Government is planning to implement large-scale irrigation projects and to modernize the traditional irrigation networks, thus saving water and allowing the irrigation of an additional 74 000 ha by the year 2015. The potential increase in irrigation includes 23 500 ha in southern Bekaa Valley and 5 000 ha lying on both sides of the Litani River, which require drainage systems. Other planned irrigated lands are 5 000 ha in the Ammiq area in southern Bekaa, 7 000 ha in Hirmil in northern Bekaa, and 4 000 ha in the Plain of Akkar in northern Lebanon. A total of 35 000 ha are suitable for irrigation in southern Lebanon, including 1 200 ha near Saida. In the Kassmieh region, currently 4 000 ha are equipped for irrigation and 3 600 ha are actually irrigated, saving water should increase the irrigated area by 2 000 ha. In the coastal plain, 58 000 ha can be irrigated by coastal rivers and aquifers.
An important first step in the overall process of a long-term water management policy in Lebanon is the forging of a good operational partnership among the main actors in the water sector, namely the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW), the four regional water authorities, the Litani River Authority, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environment as well as the various private actors.