BEIRUT: Expected rains next week will do little to soften the blow from a markedly dry winter, experts told The Daily Star. “The water crisis will continue,” Michel Frem, head of the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute, said.
Farmers can expect some respite next week, however. Frem says that heavy rains are predicted to start on March 9 and possibly last through March 15.
“These rains are good for the crops, but they are not enough to solve the drought problem in Lebanon,” Frem said.
Mona Chahine Khauli, who leads the Nicholas Chahine weather station, says that unusual weather patterns have contributed to the excruciatingly dry year.
“This year has been unusual. We’ve had cold fronts since October repeatedly, one after the other, and this has curtailed the rain. When it [the rain] should have gone for three or four days, it stopped after just one,” she explained.
Khauli hopes that some of the precipitation deficit will be made up in the coming months.
“My prediction is that we will have more rain in the spring,” she said, cautioning that it was nearly impossible to predict rainfall more than 48 hours in advance.
According to statistics on the weather station’s website, just 169 mm of rain has been recorded in the Ras Beirut area since Jan. 1. By contrast, the area had already received 315 mm of rain by this time last year.
Energy Minister Arthur Nazarian issued a memorandum Thursday addressing the water shortage issue.
The memorandum directs all state agencies, farmers, industrialists and citizens to take steps to cut water consumption and spells out several short-term steps to cope with the drought.
Among the strategies recommended in Nazarian’s memorandum is raising public awareness to conserve water resources.
Another recommendation calls on Lebanon’s departments of water resources to provide water to new residential complexes to cut down on the number of new wells, which deplete groundwater.
The advisory also urges homemakers, who it said use the most water, to reduce unnecessary water consumption, particularly when showering or washing the dishes.
“We need to sensitize people to the needs of conserving water at home,” Khauli agreed.
Families should reuse water as much as they can, she added: “Wash your vegetables, then use that water to clean the balcony.”
Because Lebanon lacks sufficient infrastructure, individuals should consider collecting rainwater on their rooftops for nondrinking purposes, Khauli suggested.
“It’s very easy,” she said of the process involved in installing a water collection tank.
In his memorandum, Nazarian says global warming is at least in part to blame for the drought.
“ Lebanon is exposed to climate changes, including global warming, which are specifically affecting the quantify rainfall,” the memorandum stated.
Extreme weather patterns, which some experts attribute to climate change, have been seen throughout the world this year. The United Kingdom has experienced one of the wettest winters on record, while the Western United States has seen extreme drought.
With regard to climate change, “the concern is global,” Khauli said.