Role of Water-Energy Nexus in Water Service Provision in Lebanon

Nov 30, 2020News

The interrelation between energy and water, known as the water-energy nexus, though well established and understood by most practitioners, has been ignored by policy makers in developing energy and water policies. This has led to the rise of complex challenges, especially in Lebanon, due to the fact that policies and strategies in both sectors have often been developed in isolation of each other. This resulted in policy fragmentation that has negatively affected the sustainable development of both sectors. 

The study conducted by IFI’s Climate Change Program aims to address the issues raised above through an examination of the role of energy, particularly electricity, in Lebanon’s water and wastewater service provision. This includes an investigation and analysis of the associated socio-economic impacts of W-E Nexus mismanagement on communities in Lebanon, and a look at how organizations working in the water and energy sector communicate amongst each other, through a social network analysis. 

The first phase of the study comprised of a two-step energy analysis involving a walk-through survey followed by an in-depth energy audit and assessment were conducted for 62 water and wastewater facilities mostly operated by the four water establishments in Lebanon. The intended aim was to develop a clear picture of the extent that energy impacts the provision of water and wastewater services as well as the potential for energy efficiency opportunities within the audit and similar facilities. The analysis was performed throughout the country for 39 water pumping stations and 23 wastewater treatment plants. The conducted Energy Audit revealed the challenges faced by the water establishments in covering energy cost and day-to-day maintenance operation of water pumping stations and WWTPs. The audit showed that it is important to include energy efficiency at the core of the design of new water and wastewater facilities and the rehabilitation of existing facilities. Another key finding was that medium-to-large-scale WWTPs are more energy efficient than small-scale plants and this should be well integrated in selection of treatment facilities. Further, it is important to evaluate projects in terms of energy consumption; operational expenditure and potential energy efficiency measures included in them to reduce energy costs borne by the water establishments. 

With the hypothesis that the interlinkages between water and energy and the absence of an integrated policy has ramifications that trickle down to the citizens, a social impact assessment (SIA) in a selected case study was conducted. The SIA highlighted the need for better cooperation and communication between the municipalities and the WEs and for the need to rebuild the trust between the citizens and the water establishments in order to break the vicious cycle of low bills collection rate and no cost recovery by the establishments. The energy audit and social impact assessment highlighted the fact that the interrupted power supply and the resulting water shortages have negative social and economic consequences for the ordinary citizens who are burdened with extra costs in their attempt to secure water from alternative source. It was shown that residents of a town facing such onerous costs are willing to pay higher tariffs as long as water supply is consistent in quality and quantity.

Taking into consideration the results of the social impact assessment and the gap in communication observed between water users and their water providers (Water Establishments); a social network analysis (SNA) was conducted to assess the forms of communication between stakeholders involved in the water and energy sector in Lebanon. A social network analysis (SNA) is a process that identifies and studies the interlinkages and connections between various stakeholders in a specific network. The SNA showed numerous communication problems between governmental institutions, especially between municipalities, water establishments, and the MoEW. It also showed that there are stakeholders which dominate communication within the network creating unnecessary bottlenecks. Additionally, it was shown that some stakeholders are not operating according to their mandates with some shirking policy making responsibilities while others intrude into this practice. Therefore, to improve the flow of communication – knowledge, expertise, funding, etc. – it is imperative that the strong ties that are monopolizing this flow be weakened to develop a network of weak ties between all stakeholders that allows for information and data sharing, breaching new technological ideas and opportunities and facilitate drafting policies and their enforcement.