By Olivia Alabaster
The Daily Star

BEIRUT: A national water conservation awareness campaign was launched Tuesday in conjunction with the United Nations Development Program, at the Energy and Water Ministry.

Held under the auspices of the Lebanese Center for Water Management and Conservation – which provides technical support for water conservation projects and increases awareness on the issue – the National Water Conservation Campaign is accompanied by a major advertising drive under the slogan “save water, save life.”

Television, radio and newspaper ads depict, in graphic style, a dehydrated man crawling across a desert, warning the Lebanese that if a concerted effort is not made by all citizens to preserve water soon the country will suffer water scarcity by 2025.

The campaign is sponsored by the Spanish Embassy in collaboration with the ARTGOLD UNDP program.

As the UNDP states, while Lebanon is often viewed as a water-rich country, “recent assessments of water availability as compared to demand … have shown that Lebanon will soon be facing water shortages.”

“If business continues as usual then the Energy and Water Ministry will be, in the very near future, unable to meet the needs of the country.”

Energy and Water, Minister Gibran Bassil, who requested the foundation of the LCWMC center last year, attended at the launch of the campaign. He spoke of the pressing need for such a campaign. “We all know water is very precious to all of us … We must increase awareness in society and within the political class … and move forward this important campaign to preserve water.”

The current project of the LCWMC is a groundwater assessment and database project, funded in part from a 1.8 million euro donation from Rome.

Speaking at the launch, Ziad Khayat, project manager of LCWMC, stressed the urgent need for such a groundwater study. “The last national study was carried out by UNDP in 1970. Since then 42,800 wells have been drilled,” he said.

The study will update the current data on groundwater reserves and provide an assessment of available water, Khayat added. It is due to begin in September or October 2011 and should take around two years to complete.

It will also locate suitable “artificial recharge” – storing surplus surface water in underground aquifers – sites around the country.

Seifeldin Abbaro, UNDP country director for Lebanon, agreed with Khayat’s assessment of the urgent need to update current data, saying: “The lack of data in Lebanon is really impeding all efforts for development.”

Abbaro also stressed the ongoing nature of such a project. “Water conservation is not a day’s work … It’s a continuous process.”

The LCWMC hopes to support this process with an education campaign, including school visits, and the center is also in talks with the Education Ministry to have the issue of water conservation included in the school curriculum.

Example materials include simple water-saving tips such as turning off the tap while brushing teeth (which could save up to 95 liters of water each month), only running dishwasher and washing machines when they are at full capacity, buying or building a water barrel to capture rain for watering plants and sweeping sidewalks and driveways instead of hosing them down.

Spanish Ambassador Juan Carlos Gafo as well as Italian Ambassador Giuseppe Morabito were in attendance at the launch, both of whom Bassil and Abbaro thanked for their country’s support for the water projects.

“Water is the most important source,” Morabito said, the preservation of which is crucial “to the development of this great country which is Lebanon.”

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::