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Surface Storage Plan: Dams and Mountain Lakes

It was mentioned in the section “Surface Storage Plan: Dams and Mountain Lakes” developed by the Minsitry of Energy and Water Resources that the demand for water in Lebanon in the year 2010 totaled 1,473 million m3. Of this amount, only 1,047 million m3 were available, resulting in a deficit of 426 million m3. This shortage is the result of climate change (decrease in the amount of snow) and of the inability of water institutions to guarantee new water sources. There is, therefore, a significant scarcity of water and only half of the individual’s daily water need can be assured (160 to 180 L/day).
 
 
The Ministry of Energy and Water Resources evaluated the water needs on the “National Strategic Information on the Water Sector” and assessed the necessary amount of additional sources needed in order to cut the deficit and meet future needs. A master plan for water resources was developed. The water balance for 2015 was calculated based on the assumption that no new water sources will be added to the present supply and that up to 50% of groundwater layers and 75% of the leachate would be artificially renewed. As a result, the Ministry concluded that there will still be a shortage in the water balance, despite its decrease from 369 to 220 million m3. Consequently, the desire for establishing dams and mountain lakes arose as an alternative to stop the deficit.
 
 
Thus, the Ministry developed a surface storage plan, strongly based on the ten- point plan, which included a 3-stage executive scheme and a timetable for constructing dams and mountain lakes in order to plug the deficit by the year 2035. The plan included the construction of 19 dams and one mountain lake in the year 2015, 25 dams and one mountain lake by 2020, and 28 by 2035.
 
 
The executive scheme pointed out that even though financial profit is not one of the objectives of the project concerning the establishment of dams, it must generate income in order to operate and pay its execution costs, which totals $1,970 Million until the year 2020. The study also presented alternatives to determine the costs of producing one cubic meter of potable water. All expenses incurred in the project will be recovered by the year 2060, as determined in the study.
 

Horizontal reading of the plan
 
Amid the increasing deficit in the water balance, developing dams for storage of large amounts of water is essential. However, only the dams that receive the highest rates (Hermel-second stage, Al Bared, Al Msaylha, Al Jana, etc.) should be established while, in other cases, alternative methods of water storage (such as mountain lakes and ponds) should be considered.
 
Based exclusively on the information provided by the Ministry, it was not possible to determine the production cost of one square meter of water in each project independently in order to compare it with the costs of other projects and other parts of the world. The production cost of one square meter of water shall not exceed, in any case, the established world price (otherwise, the project will be financially unjustified).
 
In case of wars or armed conflicts between countries, dams constitute a threat to residential areas. It is important, therefore, to take this point into consideration when determining and deciding their locations. Because of their significant size, dams may lead to huge environmental damages which can result in topographic changes and elimination of the surrounding fauna and flora.
 
From an environmentalist point of view, it is suggested to the concerned parties of the Ministry of Energy and Water, to establish, as much as possible, ponds and mountain lakes in all Lebanese regions in order to feed the groundwater reservoirs and guarantee potable water. It is preferable not to construct concrete facilities for water storage, except in urgent cases. In order to supply the local need for potable water and where there are no risks of explosions, there is no problem if the government relies on groundwater wells in some regions (under the condition that it establishes ponds and mountain lakes in parallel, as well).
 
Most probably, the ministry will mostly turn to the public budget to finance the surface storage plan (funds required until the year 2020 are of 1,970 million dollars) due to the reluctance of donor institutions and international lenders to finance the dams projects. Finding the funds in the budget for new projects is a major challenge amid the increasing burden of public debt (except in the case of investment in petroleum resources and in taking advantage of its revenues).
 
Source: Lebanon Environment and the Year 2010 report, prepared by Mazen Abboud & Aseel Takshee
 
 

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