Lebanon Water Supply Augmentation Project (Bisri Dam)

People living in the Greater Beirut Mount Lebanon area face acute water scarcity. According to various climate change projections, the water scarcity is expected to further worsen. This Project will benefit over 1.6 million people living across Greater Beirut & Mount Lebanon, including 460,000 living on less than $4 a day, who will have access to clean and improved water supply service without spending additional expenses on alternative water sources.

Water Scarcity 

For decades, the Lebanese population has been subject to severe water supply shortages, often receiving access to only 1-3 hours of water per day, due to the country’s limited water resources, infrastructure deficit, and suboptimal water resources management. The population thus relies on expensive bottled and tanker water, which disproportionately affects the poor. Lebanon is a water-scarce country with uncertain bulk water supply sources. Groundwater is exploited at unsustainable levels, and the coastal aquifers suffer from seawater intrusion. The total number of licensed individual private wells is estimated at 20,000 wells in the Greater Beirut Mount Lebanon area (GBML). Further, there are an estimated additional 60,000 illegal wells. Surface water storage capacity is very low in Lebanon, with only 6 percent of total resources being stored compared to the regional average of 85 percent (Middle East and North Africa). 

Expected Benefits for People in Lebanon

The Project will secure water to the residents in the Greater Beirut & Mount Lebanon area. Residents will benefit from improved water services and in some areas will have continuous water supply service. They will no longer need to rely on alternative water sources and will see substantial reductions in their household water expenditures. With the water supply available from the network, residents will no longer be forced to rely on wells which will reduce pressure on groundwater and allow to restore Beirut’s groundwater and diminish coastal salt-water intrusion.

The Project will contribute to the promotion of development projects for communities in the Bisri Dam area. Local people in communities surrounding the Dam will have access to a Benefit-Sharing Program that contributes to promoting new sources of income, including ecotourism.



A dam will be constructed on the Bisri River in South Lebanon and will store 125 million cubic meters of water, filling up naturally in the winter and spring for use during the summer and fall. Water will flow to Beirut entirely by gravity and will not incur pumping costs through a 26-kilometer underground tunnel and be treated at the Wardanieh Water treatment  plant on the way. The Bisri Dam is expected to be built in about 5 years.

Two International Panel of Experts are in charge of reviewing and continuously monitoring every aspect of the Project’s design, construction and operations to ensure due diligence on technical, social, environmental, and archeological aspects according to international best practices and the World Bank policies. The International Panel of Experts on Dam Safety gathers some of the world’s most renowned experts in hydrology, dam safety, seismology, and geology. The one on Environmental and Social Protection gathers world-class experts in environment, social, and archeology.

The Project is one of the World Bank’s largest projects in the country—a US$474 million loan to increase municipal water supplies. The Islamic Development Bank and the Government of Lebanon are also providing parallel financing (of US$128million and US$15million respectively), toward the total cost of US$617million.

Approval Date by the World Bank: September 30, 2014

Closing Date: June 30, 2024

Total Project Cost: US$ 617.00 million

Implementing Agency: Council for Development and Reconstruction

Financed by: Government of Lebanon, World Bank, Islamic Development Bank

The Bisri Dam will store rain water in winter for usage during summer. 

Location: Located at 35 kilometers south of Beirut immediately upstream of the village of Bisri.

Storage Size: 125 million cubic meters of water

Functioning: Bisri Dam reservoir will fill up naturally during the rainy season to be used during summer and fall. Without pumping, treated water will flow to the GBML area entirely by gravity through a 26-kilometer underground tunnel. It will be distributed to households though networks which are currently being rehabilitated as part of the Greater Beirut Water Supply Project (funded by the World Bank). 

Water treatment: Water stored in the Bisri Dam will be treated at the Wardaniyeh water treatment plant.

Timeline: Construction of the Dam will take about five years from the date of signature of the construction contract.

Analysis of Alternatives

The Government of Lebanon (GoL) has been considering the Bisri Dam project for over 50 years. It is a crucial part of Lebanon’s National Water Sector Strategy.

During the design of the Project, the GoL commissioned a detailed Analysis of Alternatives, which examined the technical, economic, environmental and social aspects of:

  • four dam options (Bisri, Janna, Damour East and Damour West)
  • several non-dam options, including improved groundwater management, desalination, demand management and treated wastewater reuse.

The analysis showed that a combination of non-dam and dam actions was required to increase the volume of water provided to the GBML on the long-term.

The construction of Bisri Dam is part of a series of coordinated investments and reforms combining non-dam and dam actions, required to provide water security for GBML until at least 2035.

Environmental and Social Risk Mitigation

During project preparation, the Council for Development and Reconstruction carried out an Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) in close collaboration with government agencies, civil society, the private sector and community members. The ESIA was reviewed and approved by the Lebanese Ministry of Environment. 

In order to mitigate the environment and social impacts assessed in the ESIA, an Environment and Social Management Plan (ESMP) was developed. It is made up of mitigation measures that are proportional and sufficient to mitigate the impacts identified in the ESIA. 

In addition, a detailed Resettlement Action Plan was developed. It details the process through which land expropriation and resettlement will be undertaken. 

Dam Safety

The Government of Lebanon designed the Bisri Dam as per the state-of-the-art seismic hazard assessment and design. An independent international panel of experts on dam safety reviewed the design and confirmed that the Bisri Dam is designed to withstand the worst earthquakes and that it will not in itself trigger earthquakes. The Bisri Dam will be equipped with seismic monitoring instruments that will continuously monitor the structure of the dam. Also, an Emergency Preparedness Plan was developed.

Water Quality

The water from Bisri Dam will be treated and potable for consumers.

The water that will flow from the Bisri Dam will reach Joun Lake which will be filled from various sources, namely the Awali river (stored in Bisri), Ain Zarqa Spring, Jezzine Springs and Lake Qaraoun. The Joun Lake water will be treated at a state-of-the-art water treatment plant in Wardanieh, 30 kilometers south of Beirut (see map). The treated water will flow through a conveyor to the upgraded GBML distribution system, ensuring steady and reliable water supply to up to 1.6 million residents of the area. The water will be safe to drink and will meet Lebanese drinking standards (LIBNOR NL 161) and/or EU standards (98/83/EC), whichever is the more stringent. The water quality will be monitored in the Joun Lake and at the exit of the Wardanieh water treatment plant to guarantee its quality. 

The water flow will allow the transition from the current intermittent water supply to continuous water supply in Beirut in a phased manner. Based on global experience, steady water supply is safer for consumers. Water remains safe in any distribution system when pipes are constantly full. In intermittent supply systems, pumping stops randomly and the pressure in the pipes drops. This allows for groundwater from the surrounding areas to seep in, bringing with it wastewater from denizens. As GBML transitions to continuous water supply, the water quality will gradually improve.

See note on Water Quality from New Sources for the Greater Beirut Mount Lebanon Region, extracted from the World Bank’s Inspection Panel case 71.

Protecting Biodiversity

A detailed Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) was put in place to mitigate impacts on biodiversity based on the results of a detailed ecological survey covering all major taxa, including amphibians, reptiles and macro-invertebrates, as well as location and habitat usage information for flora, mammals, birds and fish. The objective of the BAP is to fully compensate for biodiversity impacts by having an ecological offset for the habitats that will be lost under the reservoir, through translocating some of the species, conserving or strengthening existing natural habitats. These offsets will be designed in a way that the biodiversity result of the Bisri Dam is ideally with “net gains” and at the minimum with “no loss”. Biodiversity work will be financed by the Project.

Preserving Cultural and Archeological Sites 

The Mar Moussa church and the remains of the Saint Sophia monastery will be relocated nearby, with close oversight of the Maronite church authorities and parishioners. Archeological sites will be investigated, documented and preserved when needed with close coordination and supervision of the Directorate General of Antiquities. Archeological works will be financed by the Project.

Limiting Impacts on Local Communities

A detailed Resettlement Action Plan was developed and is subject to an independent review mechanism that monitors its implementation.

A Grievance Redress Mechanism provides clear and accountable means for affected persons to raise complaints and seek remedies when they believe they have been affected by the Project. It is closely monitored by both the environmental and social independent panel of experts and the World Bank.

A Benefit-Sharing Program for communities impacted by the Project was created to ensure that local people in the surrounding communities can also benefit from the Reservoir. It will promote employment opportunities, improve community services and social welfare, and ensure surrounding communities share the benefits from subsequent development of the reservoir shoreline and adjacent areas.

Consulting Civil Society

The Council for Development and Reconstruction consulted civil society during the preparation and implementation of the Project. Around twenty-eight public meetings and focused group discussions with beneficiaries, project-affected persons, NGOs and civil society groups were conducted between April 2012 and May 2017. Additional consultations on the Biodiversity Action Plan were conducted in 2018. Feedback received from consultations was taken into account in the Project’s design and implementation, and has notably resulted in the addition of the Grievance Redress Mechanism and the Benefit Sharing Program.

For the World Bank, communication with all stakeholders on the due diligence around the Project and on the implementation progress is essential and remains one of the priorities. The Bank is engaged in an open and inclusive dialogue and organizes regular meetings with NGOs. To further increase transparency, the World Bank has arranged videoconferences between the NGOs and the Independent Panel of Experts and translation was made available to ensure that civil society has access to the information provided. The Bank team also arranged for meetings with World Bank experts on matters of concern to the NGOs including social, environment, archeology, hydrology, hydrogeology, dam safety.


Two independent international panels of experts, one on Dam Safety and the other on Environmental and Social, monitor the project. They gather global experts in dam safety, seismology, geology, hydrology and environment, sociology and archeology. They are in charge of reviewing and continuously monitoring every aspect of the project’s design, construction and operations to ensure due diligence on technical, social, environmental, and archeological aspects according to international best practices and the World Bank policies. 


  • Independent International Panel of Experts on Environmental and Social: Environment and Archeology Mission (March 2016), Social Safeguards Mission (July 2016), Environmental, Archeology and Social Safeguards Mission (February 2017 )


Inspection Panel of the World Bank

The World Bank’s Inspection Panel, an independent accountability mechanism for people and communities who believe that they have been, or are likely to be, adversely affected by a World Bank-funded project, has reviewed a Request for Inspection related to the Water Supply Augmentation Project and recommended to the Bank’s Board that no investigation was warranted. The World Bank’s Executive Directors Board on December 6, 2018, approved the Inspection Panel recommendation not to investigate the Project (See Inspection Panels’ report)

On June 24, 2019, the Inspection Panel received a Request for Inspection related to the Water Supply Augmentation Project. The Request referred to the Request for Inspection (case no. 127). On September 4, 2019, the Panel issued a Notice of Non-Registration of the Request.

Over 1.6 million people living across the Greater Beirut & Mount Lebanon will have access to clean and improved water supply service without spending additional expenses on alternative water sources.


Mona Ziade