AMMIQ: Lebanon is bracing for a summer drought, after a record dry winter exacerbated by a massive influx of Syrian refugees and longstanding water management problems.
In Ammiq, in the east of the country, the effects of the dry winter are already visible.
Lebanon’s meteorological service says the country has had just 431 mm (17 inches) of precipitation since September, less than half last year’s 905.8 mm and far below the yearly average of 812 mm.
Farmer Khaled al-Kaabi has begun watering his fields a month earlier than usual because the rains that ordinarily feed his lands never came.
“Usually we do this at the end of May, but this year the lack of rain has forced us to do it now,” he said as he irrigating rows of wheat for animal feed.
The country hasn’t seen such low levels since 1932, when just 335 mm was recorded, according to Hadi Jaafar, assistant professor of irrigation engineering and water management at the American University in Beirut.
But the increase in the country’s population since then makes this year’s drought far more serious, he said.
“This year, and although we received a little bit above 400 mm, it is far worse,” he said.
“Back then, the population was less than half of today’s, and so were the agricultural areas,” he added.
“Relatively speaking, it is the driest year on record for the inhabitants in this country.”
But the rain and snow that usually feed the rivers and wells never arrived.
“This year, we will have to pump up water from below ground, but if this drought continues next year, there’ll only be five percent of that groundwater left,” Kaabi said.