Breaking Point:
The Collapse of Lebanon's Water Sector

June 28, 2021

Lebanon’s worsening fuel shortage is not only bringing cars to a standstill; it is also reducing access to water for millions of Lebanese people. With the state only able to provide electricity for a few hours per day, and diesel for private generators increasingly scarce, water pumps across the country are grinding to a halt, causing shortages of this most basic necessity.

The ongoing economic crisis which lies at the heart of the current fuel shortages is exposing other frailties in Lebanon’s fundamentally flawed hydrosocial cycle – a term for society’s relationship with its water. Many can no longer pay their water bills. Those who can are paying in greatly devalued Lebanese Lira, an entirely inadequate revenue stream to maintain the already-faltering water administration bodies and their US dollar expenditures. While currency devaluation is a recent development, there are few signs of the Lebanese Lira returning to its old value in the immediate or medium term future.

Despite 30 years of disastrous water sector mismanagement, the latest master plan – published after the onset of the 2019 financial crisis – promotes the same failed prescriptions. Propping up Lebanon’s flawed water management system is guaranteed to end in disaster. Only people-oriented structural reform can bring about basic levels of social and environmental sustainability, achieving balance in Lebanon’s hydrosocial cycle.

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