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Monitoring Water Quality in the Litani Basin

In 2005, the Litani River Authority created the Environmental Unit and tasked it with the continuous monitoring of surface water quality.

 

Environmental Unit – Main Tasks and Functions

  • This unit analyzes the quality of water by taking and analyzing samples from the lower and upper basins of the Litani River (the lower basin is the distance from the lower end of the Qaraoun dam to the sea in the north of Tyre) to identify any pollutants present.
  • Work is divided between two teams; the first is permanently stationed in the upper basin in the research center of the Authority in Kherbet Kanafar, and the second is affiliated to the Authority’s office in Sidon.
  • The unit studied the hydrologic geographic characteristics of the river, as well as the major facilities constructed along its course; it also identified the violations occurring at its upper basin and the main sources of pollution from solid wastes, to hospital and industrial wastes.
Olive Mill
Mill residues near Qaraoun

 

Main Studies and Activities

  1. Within the framework of the LRBMS (USAID) project between 2010 and 2013, many studies were led over 4 years on the quality of water in the upper basin of the Litani River. An environmental indicator for the quality of water was also developed as an outcome that the Authority would adopt later to publish general information and deal with any changes, by referring to monthly reports.
  2. Cooperating with the Arab University in conducting an in-depth study of the quality of water in Qaraoun Lake.
  3. Participating with the National Atomic Energy Department on ARASIA project which studies artificial replenishment of groundwater. These studies rely on using environmental and chemical isotopes in the quantitative and qualitative analysis of groundwater. Residues in the bottom of the lake are also analyzed to determine the leakage percentage and the hypothetical age of the lake.
  4. Participating in many seminars and workshops in Lebanon and abroad, namely:
    • A visit to Arizona in the U.S.A, entitled “Watershed Study Tour in Arizona”, on an invitation by the Forest Services Department at the Ministry of Agriculture. During the visit, methods of managing water basins were explored, including irrigation, electrical production, wastewater and effluents treatment, as well as creating natural reserves and highlighting their virtues to the health, the environment, and the tourism sector.
    • Participation in a training course organized in Jordan under the request of the International Atomic Energy Agency (ARASIA project), entitled:
    • Regional Training Course on the Use of Isotopes and Geochemical Techniques in the Study of Artificial Recharge: Modeling and Interpretation Methods
    • The latest achievements of the Lebanese team, i.e. the National Atomic Energy Department, with the Litani River Authority were showcased, including results of sample analysis regarding the above subject. The team benefited from the information given by IAEA experts on developing methods that help conclude more accurate and advantageous results whether while conducting researches or working on the ground.
    • Carrying out a preliminary study regarding the creation of a natural space cultivated with different kinds of trees and plants and featuring certain specificities to treat wastewater and effluents without any recourse to artificial uses such as water treatment plants, which themselves pose a problem to the environment given the required maintenance and operation efforts. This study will be given the top priority.
    • The BAMAS (USAID) project in 2004/2005, where samples from more than 200 locations were collected, including the Litani River, tributaries, adjacent springs, and the Qaraoun lake for a deep understanding of the quality of water cluster and sources in the upper Litani basin. Major pollutants were found and identified, and they included nitrates, phosphates and harmful CALIFORM bacteria. Pollution sources were also identified.
    • The results of lab tests carried out by the Ministry of Health on household water sources.
    • The study conducted by the Center of Global Development (2004).
    • The study conducted by the Swedish team in 2000.

The Objectives of the Monitoring Unit (Environmental Unit)

The main objectives of the Water Quality Monitoring Project are the following:

  1. Creating a long-term database on the quality of water to save data and observe changes occurring in the Litani basin, as well as to ensure the quality of water used in villages, environmental and industrial units and recreational centers.
  2. Creating a database and analysis base to manage and translate subjects related to the quality of water.
  3. Exchanging data and information with relevant institutions to improve the quality of water and promote the management and protection of this sector.
  4. Building capacities to be able to detect pollutants and their resources at an early stage, by finding a legal framework to monitor factories, agricultural activities, crushers and liquid and solid wastes.
  5. Preparing the geotechnical studies for the Qaraoun lake by analyzing the artificial flow of groundwater by participating alongside the National Atomic Energy Department in ARASIA project, which relies heavily on isotopes and geochemical techniques.
  6. Using the same techniques mentioned above (bullet 5) to study the possibility of water leaking under the dam in the mentioned cluster, and to study the sediments to determine the leakage percentage and hypothetical age of the lake.
  7. Monitoring the quality of groundwater through special wells dug with the support of USAID as part of the LRBMS project.

Functions of the Environmental Unit

Sample Locations:
  • The table below summarizes the locations from which samples were collected all throughout 2006. They include surface water of the tributaries flow into Qaraoun lake, as well as groundwater from springs and wells.
  • All these locations are found on water sources in the upper basin to the North of the lake (in the central Bekaa water clusters).

 

Location
Description
Quaa El Rim Spring

Flows directly into the Litani

Qab Elias Spring

Flows directly into the Litani

Shamsin Spring

Flows directly into the Litani

Khreizat Spring

Flows directly into the Litani

Ein El Delb Spring

Flows directly into the Litani

Ghzayel River

One of the Litani tributaries

Berdawni River

One of the Litani tributaries

Jeb Jannine River

One of the Litani tributaries

Loucy Well

Groundwater well treated and equipped by the Ministry of Energy and Water

Qaraoun Lake Cluster

Artificial lake formed by the dam built in 1960

Equipment Used in Analysis:

  1. Clorimeter: to carry out water analyses on site, to test the following.
    • Ammonia, Nitrate, Sulfate, Phosphate
  2. Site device to test conductivity, total dissolved solids, salinity, temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, and CALIFORM (harmful colon bacteria)

Main Pollutants and Results:

The previous studies revealed three main groups of pollutants in the upper basin of the river. They are as follows:

  1. Waste and pollutants, mainly produced by factories.
  2. Nitrates and phosphates mainly resulting from agricultural activities and domestic waste.
  3. Colon bacteria (CALIFORM) resulting mainly from domestic wastewater.

To exchange and document data, as well as prevent any discrepancy or inconsistency, the Environmental Unit adopted the following:

  1. Analyzing monthly samples to study quarterly changes.
  2. Collecting and analyzing samples as per international standards to verify the accuracy of the data.
  3. The number of locations and the distribution of monitoring stations were chosen in a way that ensures comprehensive data observation regarding pollution on the upper stream of the river.
  4. Monitoring priority was given to locations that pollute the Litani basin.
  5. Procedures regarding measurements and data were developed for better observation, as well as to manage and publish researches, in accordance with the technical standards for data analysis and exchange.

Recommendations and Conclusion

  • Supply the Environmental Unit with field devices to measure the amount of water used by the Unit to obtain regular results concurrently with water quality studies, and analyze them without referring to the Water Resources Unit which relies on annual reports that cannot be used with the same, dynamic way required for analyzing water quality.
  • Continue field monitoring of the quality of water at a higher pace, i.e. taking semi-monthly samples in locations with high pollution rates and maintaining monthly monitoring in normal locations.
  • Work with the National Atomic Energy Authority on project of artificial replenishment of groundwater.

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