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It is difficult to determine the exact figure for water withdrawal and to make a realistic breakdown between the different sectors. Most private wells are unlicensed and therefore not monitored. In addition, a large share of water in public distribution systems is lost through system leakages. There is 35ľ50 percent seepage from the water supply networks, which is almost all infiltrated to the aquifers and the extracted again via tube wells, especially in the Greater Beirut metropolitan area.
In 2005, water withdrawal was estimated at 1 310 million m3, of which almost 60 percent was for agricultural purposes, 29 percent for municipal use and 11 percent for industry (Table 3 and Figure 1). Primary groundwater and primary surface water account for 53.4 percent and 30.2 percent respectively of total water withdrawal. Recycled irrigation drainage accounts for 12.6 percent, desalinated water for 3.6 percent and reused treated wastewater for 0.2 percent (Figure 2). The share of water withdrawal for agriculture is likely to decrease over the coming years as more water will have to be diverted for municipal and industrial purposes. It is estimated that 700 million m3 of water per year is used for hydropower, with direct restitution to the natural river course. Agricultural water withdrawal assessment is based on 11 200 m3/ha per year from surface water and 8 575 m3/ha per year from groundwater. Domestic water use is estimated on the basis of 220-250 litres per person per day during the dry period and 200 litres per person per day during the wet period. Few data are available on the current or expected water needs of the industrial sector. It is estimated that between 60 and 70 percent of water used by industry comes from groundwater and the remainder is drawn from surface water resources.
Groundwater abstraction is secured by means of wells, which tap the major aquifers. Around 1 000 wells are scattered in the area of Beirut, with depths varying between 50 and 300 m and an average individual discharge of 35 l/s. Overpumping from wells in the Beirut area explains salt water intrusion.