This blog post highlights some of the key features and findings of a recently published paper from AQUA - Water Infrastructure, Ecosystems and Society.

 

Navigating the water–energy nexus amidst the Lebanese economic crisis

doi.org/10.2166/aqua.2024.329

Nora Fayssal, Lara Al Tawil, Hrair Danageuzian, Mira Sabat, Hana ElMerehbi, Dovan Darazi, Macole Sabat, Roy Roukos, Sara Abou Dargham, Jimmy Romanos

 

Lebanon, a country known for its relatively abundant natural water resources in the MENA region, has been facing a severe economic crisis since the end of 2019. Triggered by the collapse of the local currency, this crisis has cast a long shadow over all sectors, including energy costs, and consequently threatened water security in the country. This collaborative effort between the Lebanese American University, Hanze University of Applied Sciences, and the University of Balamand aims to study the water-energy interdependence in the Lebanese context.

Due to the lack of available data enabling researchers and policymakers to devise solutions, this study conducted a data collection survey targeting local authorities (municipalities) across all Lebanese governorates, covering approximately 80% of the population. The data collection process involved an approved questionnaire, administered by municipal officials or municipality-affiliated engineers and employees. The collected data spanned the period from 2019 to 2023, representing the situation before and during the crisis, allowing exploration of the Water-Energy nexus during periods of economic turmoil.

Groundwater, the country’s primary water supply, heavily relies on energy for pumping, treatment, and distribution. The economic crisis has significantly threatened water security, leaving much of the population without sufficient water supply from both public and private sectors. This situation underscores the strong dependence of water provisioning on the energy market.

The study’s findings are alarming. The average weekly water supply has plummeted from 49 hours before the crisis to a mere 22 hours in 2023. Simultaneously, the use of water tankers has surged from 26% to 44%, indicating a concerning shift in water acquisition methods.

In response to the energy shortage, renewable energy sources have gained traction in residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. The scarcity and rising cost of electricity have driven the adoption of solar photovoltaics in the water sector, accounting for 4.8% of extraction from underground reservoirs and 2.8% for distribution. Similarly, the use of solar water heaters has increased from 7.9% to 15.4% in 2023.

The study emphasizes the urgent need for comprehensive policies and investments to address the interconnected challenges of energy and water provision in Lebanon. The future of Lebanon’s water security hinges on breaking free from dependence on conventional energy sources and embracing sustainable alternatives. Failure to do so will perpetuate the cycle of water scarcity and worsen the situation for citizens. Additionally, this research study highlights the close links between SDG6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and SDG7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), which will be further explored in upcoming publications.

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