BEIRUT: A multi-sectoral partnership for enhancing water resources management in Lebanon, specifically in the Shouf Biosphere Reserve, is taking place, Nestle Middle East explained to a number of media outlets, including Annahar.
The “Groundwater Assessment of the Shouf Biosphere Reserve-Lebanon” study is the fruit of a 2015 Memorandum of understanding between Nestlé Waters and the Shouf Biosphere Reserve.
Launched in 2016, its key objective was to assess the water resources of the area extending over Lebanon’s western mountain chain from Mount Kneisseh in the North, to mount Niha in the South – one of the most plentiful freshwater-generating hotspots in Lebanon and the Middle East.
The study was implemented by leading water and environmental management consultancy ANTEA Group. The multi-sectorial partnership is beginning to help Lebanon’s Shouf Biosphere Reserve (SBR) successfully enhance the recharge of groundwater reservoirs in the area during the October-May rainy season, Nestle mentioned.
It will be working on reducing the impact of summer droughts using retaining walls and terraces that increase water infiltration.
Assaad Saadeh, Regional Water Resources & Environmental Sustainability Manager At Nestle Waters, told Annahar that Nestle and its partners be working on reducing the impact of summer droughts through following an action plan recommended by the study.
“We will work on implementing it with our partners in the watershed in order to help reduce the impacts of summer droughts,” he said. The development announced around World Water Day on March 22, follows results from the “Groundwater Assessment of the Shouf Biosphere Reserve-Lebanon” study done in collaboration with Nestlé Waters.
In 2017, Nestle found the area’s overall groundwater balance to be positive by around 12 million cubic meters per year, while detecting important seasonal water fluctuations, as well as high impact stemming from climate change and human activities.
Nestle also mentioned that a steering committee featuring representatives from the Shouf Biosphere Reserve, the ministries of Water & Energy, Environment, and Agriculture, municipalities, representatives of local agriculture cooperatives, local water authorities, concerned NGOs, the private sector, and others is set to hold its first meeting in April 2019 to decide on additional actions to further improve sustainable water management in the area.
Saadeh later elaborated that the Ministry of Energy and Water is supporting the project overall, which is in line with the new water code, while the Ministry of Environment is the direct partner of Nestle’s partner the Shouf Biosphere Society, and their main role is to support the Reserve, which will help in conserving groundwater quality in the area.
Other partners, which include municipalities and water establishments also have a role to play in water management and especially regarding water supply networks and infrastructure. Women associations will also help spread awareness of water conservation.
When asked if the assessment was limited to Shouf Biosphere reserve only, Saadeh said that it was done on the western slopes of the Shouf mountains, which represent the watershed where Nestle’s factories are located.
Knowing that the yearly water quantity Lebanon uses is approximately 1,500 Million m3, it’s fundamental to differentiate between potable water and groundwater turned into potable water in many instances.
Saadeh explains that potable water is water that has chemical and microbiological characteristics that are beneficial to human health. It can be either natural (without any treatment) or treated. It also has to be clean and should have properties that meet World Health Organization standards.
Groundwater, on the other hand, is water that circulates in the underground and usually has good chemical and microbiological properties. Groundwater can be portable, and it usually has the best water quality compared to surface water, as groundwater usually gets purified naturally through the different geological layers and gets mineralized through contact with natural rock where it dissolves its minerals.
Furthermore, groundwater is more protected than surface water from surface pollutants, while surface water is usually of lower quality, and if needed for drinking consumption, it needs to be treated properly.
Lebanon’s groundwater is totally renewable and gets replenished every year through snow melting and infiltrating in the ground.
With the committee’s first meeting being scheduled on April 6, Nestle’s partners have already started building micro dams on small watercourses to improve water infiltration to the aquifers during the winter season, and to avoid surface water loss to the sea during the period.
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