FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Water Governance Analysis in the Al-Kalb River Basin in Lebanon: Opportunities amid Unprecedented Challenges

Water-related challenges are core obstacles to sustainable, resilient and inclusive development, especially in developing countries, and Lebanon is no exception. Multiple barriers still hinder the delivery of water in adequate quantity and quality to different users while ensuring sustainable management of water resources. Studies have consistently shown that problems related to the governance and political economy of water are among the root causes leading to poor service delivery outcomes, and hence, more vulnerabilities in the water sector. The consequences are enormous, potentially irreversible, and cutting across sectors with rippling effects on agriculture, health, gender equality, education, economic prosperity, and many more.

Therefore, within the framework of the project “Implementing the 2030 Agenda for water efficiency/productivity and water sustainability in the NENA countries”, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is conducting a water governance analysis study in one of the main watersheds in Lebanon – Al-Kalb River basin – which constitutes an important source of water supply to the capital Beirut.

One of the main pillars of the activity is strengthening the engagement of key actors involved in the governance of water in the watershed, bringing them together to discuss problems and priorities, as well as progress and opportunities. With the support from FAO, a consultation workshop was implemented involving several water actors who met to reflect on challenges and needed action points, including representatives from the Ministry of Energy and Water in Lebanon, other public authorities involved in the Sector, non-governmental organizations, academics, and others. FAO team has built on the findings of the workshop, analyzing and prioritizing challenges, and looking at opportunities amid the unprecedented challenges that Lebanon faces. Problems identified were numerous in the Al-Kalb River basin, notably, inequities in water allocation, obstacles in moving ahead with the water sector reforms, and challenges from water rights in a way to maximize the benefit of the community as a whole while ensuring the sustainability of water resources.

But, despite challenges, Lebanon has tremendous opportunities to recover from its financial and economic crisis stronger, including in the water sector. Preliminary findings from the water governance analysis study have shown that the country can benefit from the lessons learned in the attempts to reform the water sector to build more accountable, transparent water institutions, and responsive to citizens’ needs. Lebanon has made great strides in improving its legal framework governing the water sector, including encouraging public-private partnerships, revisiting water tariffs, promoting citizens’ participation, and strengthening coordination between governmental institutions that play a role in the water sector. National and local actors, with the support from international donors and institutions, should continue working to support these policy directions and put them into more concrete actions. The analysis shed light on the importance to have more water data on the watershed, including the development of a water cadaster enlisting water rights. In addition, efforts should continue to promote the establishment of water users associations – an important point the water law No. 192 of 2020 has addressed – while creating a sound legal framework to govern their establishment, management, and relationship with water authorities. Last but not least, among feasible solutions, technological improvements should be at the heart of developing water institutions where digitalization of selected operations and processes has to be one of the top priorities.

While the study is still ongoing till November 2022, the preliminary results obtained show the existing potential to push forward progress in the water sector. However, this requires efforts by all actors, from adequate financing to planning, implementation, monitoring, and many others to put these recommended solutions into action.

This activity is implememted under the regional project “Implementing the 2030 Agenda for water efficiency/productivity and water sustaianability in NENA countries”, under the Water Scarcity Initiative. This project is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).