Saturday, February 21, 2009

Seawater intrusion threatening Beirut water supplies

Zawya (Beirut): Climate change, high population density and overexploitation of groundwater resources has lead to massive saltwater intrusion in the greater Beirut area, a leading hydrogeologist said on Thursday. "Seawater intrusion will be aggravated by climate change and exacerbated by us," Dr. Mark Saadeh, said at the American University of Beirut. Saadeh, a lecturer at the University Saint-Espirit de Kaslik and consultant for the Litani River Authority, was speaking as part of a series on climate change in the Middle East organized by public policy think tank, the Issam Fares Institute.

Decreasing precipitation levels, hotter weather and annual rises of more than 3 mm in the Mediterranean were the main climatological causes of groundwater overexploitation, Saadeh said. The fact that roughly one third of Lebanon's population (estimated at 4.5-5 million) lived in Beirut also "placed a tremendous burden on the country's water resources," he added. Exacerbating all this was a wasteful water management system, through which up to 65 per cent of Beirut's water supplies was lost.

…Water salinity not only affected drinking and agricultural water, but also the safety of many of Beirut's buildings, Saadeh said. "Water mixed into concrete has to be as good as drinking water, which is rarely the case in Lebanon," the hydrogeologist said. Many of the apartment blocks in Beirut were built with concrete mixed with highly salinated water that corrodes building foundations. If even the slightest earthquake were to rattle Beirut, a large number of structures would come tumbling down.

So what can be done to ensure the better use and quality of Beirut's water supplies? One step would be to create a national coastal monitoring system, according to Saadeh. "We need to start taking measurements of everything and pool in all this data to come up with a much clearer picture." More immediate counter measures include creating a coastal buffer zone where welling would be prohibited, and better water management…..

Night in Beirut, shot by Rekd, Wikimedia Commons

1 comment:

Jon said...

Very nice article about water damage. We do water damage in Clearwater Florida.