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Cablegate: Survey of Syrian Water Sector - 2006

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECIN ECON EIND EAID SENV SY EWWT
SUBJECT: SURVEY OF SYRIAN WATER SECTOR - 2006

REF: A. 05 DAMASCUS 05788
B. 02 AMMAN 08144
C. 02 DAMASCUS 02280
D. 04 BAGHDAD 00360
E. AMMAN 04692
F. AMMAN 05397
G. BEIRUT 00831

1. (SBU) Summary: After years of national water shortages, it
has become clear that Syria faces a water crunch that, if not
addressed comprehensively, will balloon into a crisis in the
medium to long term. Rapidly growing demand for water from
various sectors of Syrian society in recent years combined
with a plateauing national water supply have squeezed
Syria,s water resources, leading to a chronic deficit that
could be as high as 3 billion cubic meters, with demand
outstripping supply by nearly 25%. The SARG is clearly
cognizant of the predicament, but has been characteristically
slow and inefficient with implementing identified coping
mechanisms. In an effort to control water demand, the SARG
has initiated steps to transition Syria,s agricultural
sector to modern, more water-efficient, irrigation techniques
and upgrade municipal water networks to reduce massive waste
of potable water. To boost Syria,s water supply, the SARG
is building wastewater treatment plants. At the same time,
however, the population continues drilling wells and
depleting the groundwater tables at a much faster rate.
Given Syria,s haphazard, uncoordinated water sector
management by a disorganized bureaucracy, it is doubtful the
SARG has the tools to implement new water policies it may
develop. Given the trajectory of Syria,s economy and
demographic trends, the country,s emerging water crisis
carries the potential for severe economic volatility and even
socio-political unrest. End Summary.

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2. (SBU) Demand: The rapid growth in demand for water in
Syria for a variety of uses is clearly the primary driving
force behind the recent water shortages and future concerns.
Although the exact water demand growth rate is unknown, the
general consensus among independent sources we consulted is
that it has risen consistently over the past several decades
and accelerated in recent years. All sources agreed that the
water demand growth rate certainly exceeds the 2.5%
population growth rate, probably by quite a bit. As in the
past, agricultural use constitutes the vast majority of
Syria,s water consumption, with estimates ranging from 75 to
more than 90% of the total demand. The fastest growing
component of water demand, however, is human consumption,
fueled by the combination of Syria,s high population growth
rate and increasing rates of urbanization. Industrial usage
remains the smallest element of Syria,s water consumption,
and a negligible factor to date in demand growth. Most
sources identified Syria,s grossly inefficient use of water
as the main impediment to controlling its water demand.
These major inefficiencies include still rampant utilization
of old-fashioned irrigation techniques such as &flooding8,
extremely leaky water distribution networks, and wasteful
behaviors by the general Syrian population that expects
cheap, abundant water. In September 2005, Minister of
Irrigation, Mahir al-Bunni, the SARG's top water official,
announced the establishment of a General Commission for Water
Resources, which ambitiously aims to save 5.4 million cubic
meters per year by restructuring water sector management and
rationalizing water use in Syria.

3. (SBU) Agriculture: The SARG has strived to expand Syria,s
agriculture for decades in an effort to improve the
country,s chronically underperforming economy. The Tenth
Five-Year Plan, which went into effect in January 2006, seeks
to boost agricultural production even further to diversify
the economy in anticipation of vastly reduced oil production
(ref A). Data gathered by the International Center for
Agricultural Research in the Dry Area (ICARDA), an
independent international agricultural research institute
headquartered in Syria (ref B), indicates that Syria more
than doubled its land irrigated by groundwater (319,000 to
817,000 hectares) and nearly doubled its land irrigated by
surface water without a pump (144,000 to 314,000 hectares)

DAMASCUS 00004094 002 OF 008


from the late 1980s to 2002. In 2002, Syria had over 1.3
million irrigated hectares and the SARG,s 2005-06 plan
envisions 1.5 million irrigated hectares by the end of 2006.
Most of Syria,s irrigated land is in the northeast of the
country and serviced by the Euphrates River. According to
statements by al-Bunni published in September 2005, Syrian
agriculture consumes approximately 12 billion cubic meters of
water per year, with 4.5 billion coming from dams (i.e.
rivers) and the other 7.5 billion from groundwater sources.
Given the SARG,s stated desire to expand agricultural
production and land under irrigation, most experts we
consulted expect this consumption figure to grow
considerably.

4. (SBU) How much the agricultural sector expands over the
medium-term depends on the implementation of the SARG,s
initiative to transition to more water-efficient irrigation
methods. Several sources noted the SARG,s longstanding
official effort to shift agricultural production toward more
water-efficient crops to contain water consumption. As
proof, they cited the decrease in land used for
water-&heavy8 crops such as cotton and corn. In September
2005, al-Bunni announced the creation of a 53 billion Syrian
Pound (approximately USD 1 billion) fund to finance a
ten-year transition to modern irrigation techniques among
small farmers and peasants, who comprise the vast majority of
Syrian agricultural producers. In addition to supporting
farmers, acquisition of advanced irrigation infrastructure
such as drip irrigation and sprinkler systems, the government
would provide them with technical assistance to install,
operate and maintain the new irrigation systems. An
experienced Syrian water expert ventured that the SARG hopes
ultimately to conserve 30% of the water currently consumed
for agricultural purposes (mostly from the Euphrates out
east), and redirect the savings to residential use in the
country,s major metropolitan areas in the west.

5. (SBU) Expert opinions are mixed, however, on how
successful the SARG,s initiative can be in the timeframe set
out. Despite the absence of solid data, an ICARDA observer
believed that a large portion of farmers have already adopted
modern irrigation techniques, with more poised to do so if
additional funding and technical assistance became available.
He attributed much of Syria,s massive growth in
agricultural production-per-unit over the past 25 years (e.g.
a tripling of per-unit-production of wheat) to increasing
water-efficiency, particularly the use of &supplemental
irrigation8 (ref C). Skeptics, however, discount the
SARG,s transition plan for several reasons. First, being
&old-fashioned8 creatures of habit and suspicious of the
government, farmers will oppose the new irrigation technology
on psychological grounds. Critics also doubted that the SARG
would follow through with the technical assistance critical
to getting the new irrigation systems up and running
effectively. In addition, despite the availability of loans,
the costs required to purchase and maintain the news systems
are prohibitive for the vast majority of Syria,s subsistence
farmers. (Comment: It seems likely that the farmers noted by
ICARDA, who had already adopted water-efficient irrigation
techniques, are the ones most capable of change, thus leaving
the most challenging segment of the farmer population still
to be converted to modern irrigation. End comment.) Third,
low fuel and labor costs (for pumping ground water) and no
penalties for excessive water use discourage farmers from
changing their current irrigation practices. Finally, the
fragmented, small-scale nature of Syrian agriculture )
namely the millions of Syrian farmers who farm tiny swaths of
land who will have to be convinced to change -- will prevent
a quick transition to modern irrigation techniques and
greater water efficiency.

6. (SBU) Human Consumption: Though the SARG,s efforts to
expand the utilization of more water-efficient irrigation
systems may slow the growth in agricultural consumption of
water if the government becomes more serious about
implementation, residential (i.e. human) use of water is
booming with no end in sight. Residential water use -
consisting of drinking, cleaning, and septic/sewage disposal

DAMASCUS 00004094 003 OF 008


) comprises a small but rapidly growing segment of total
consumption, according to a University of Aleppo water
expert. More than 90% of the Syrian population has access to
potable water. Syria consumes potable water at the
relatively high rate of 200 liters per capita per day. The
potable water crunch is, not surprisingly, most acute in
Syria,s cities. The Damascus metropolitan area (including
the surrounding &suburbs8) faces an especially desperate
situation. According to the DG of Damascus Suburbs Water
Establishment Dr. Abdel Nasr Sa,alluddin, the Damascus area
currently suffers an annual water deficit of 400 million
cubic meters. High population growth and rates of
urbanization are further taxing the already-dilapidated
municipal water networks and limited local water supply.
There is no consensus on the best ways to restrict
residential water consumption. One means to control
residential water usage includes more stringent water
rationing, which seems all but inevitable in the future. The
main barrier, however, appears psychological: Syrians view
water as a cheap public good to be used as much as they
desire rather than as a commodity of limited quantity )
because water is so heavily subsidized. One cubic meter of
water costs six Syrian Pounds on average, but sells for 3.5
Syrian Pounds. Furthermore, vast quantities of water are
stolen for free from the network. For political reasons, the
SARG is hesitant to reduce subsidization or pursue
cost-recovery.

7. (SBU) Industry: Industrial use of water makes up a
relatively small portion and diminishing percentage of
Syria,s total water consumption. One local expert called
the water needs of Syrian industry &neither high nor
significant8, a sentiment shared by all sources consulted.
Another source explained that the SARG does not monitor
industrial consumption of water, but he estimated industrial
water use in Syria as somewhat less than residential use. He
added that industrial demands on the water supply remain
relatively constant. Industrial zones, however, contribute
significantly to pollution of both groundwater sources and
rivers basins. Water pollution, in turn, causes major health
problems among the local population, requires more water
treatment plants for which the SARG lacks the funding and
even causes friction in Syria,s relations with neighboring
countries. A resident Turkish diplomat complained that
Syria,s pollution of the Orontes River by refineries and
factories around Homs was destroying agriculture in his
country,s Iskanderia province.

8. (SBU) Supply: Enhancing and enlarging Syria,s water
supply remains a top SARG priority, one the government is
presently pursuing with a heightened sense of urgency. The
SARG has been &pushing all possible levers for some time8
to maximize output from Syria,s water sources, according to
one ICARDA expert. Syria draws water from a broad array of
surface, ground and rain water sources, but does not yet
desalinize seawater. The SARG is also boosting its capacity
to treat and recycle wastewater (exclusively for agricultural
use). With the quantity of rain exogenously determined and
low to begin with, river sources generally limited by
political factors, and treated wastewater not yet a major
contributor of supply, Syria has used groundwater to fill its
annual deficit. This dynamic has caused severe, even
dangerous, depletion of the country,s aquifers.

9. (SBU) Surface Water: Syria has 16 main rivers and
tributaries, including six major international rivers
(Euphrates, Tigris, Orontes, Yarmouk, Al-Kabir and Afrin).
Surface water comprises about a third of Syria,s total water
supply. Although several Syrian rivers and springs in the
country,s more arid regions have dried up considerably in
recent years, exacerbating the water crunch especially in
Damascus, Syria could boost its total surface water supply by
pumping water from the Tigris River.

10. (SBU) According to all sources, Syria presently
extracts only a negligible amount of water from the Tigris.
In the 1980s, the SARG had plans to irrigate 150,000 hectares
with water from the Tigris, but never implemented the

DAMASCUS 00004094 004 OF 008


program. Syria,s increasingly desperate water situation and
plans to boost agricultural production have led to renewed
talk of pumping water form the Tigris, but the SARG has not
taken any concrete action or even indicated an intent in this
direction. Most observers concurred that Syria has not yet
tapped the Tigris because it lacks the equipment to do so,
and the funds for the requisite technology.

11. (SBU) Originating in Turkey, the Euphrates is by far
the largest river in Syria with 680 km located within Syrian
territory and an average rate of flow over the past two years
of 745 cubic meters per second (m3/s). (Note: By contrast,
the average rates for all Syria,s other rivers did not top
ten m3/s in 2004. End Note.) The Euphrates constitutes
Syria,s primary source for irrigation water and
hydroelectricity generation. In a 1987 Protocol signed
between Turkey and Syria, Turkey guaranteed to provide Syria
a minimum average monthly flow from the Euphrates of 500
m3/s. A 1990 treaty between Syria and Iraq codified that
Syria would keep 42% of the total flow of the Euphrates
received from Turkey and pass 58% on to Iraq, irrespective of
variations in flow. In recent years, however, Turkey has
released more than the 500 m3/s guaranteed by the protocol,
according to both SARG and GOT sources. In 2004 and 2005,
the average flows of the Euphrates in Syria were 757 m3/s and
732 m3/s, respectively. But this excess will not persist
forever, as an official Turkish source asserted that dams
upstream associated with the GOT,s GAP (Southeastern
Anatolia) project would basically eliminate major
fluctuations in the Euphrates flow such that Syria would
receive a regularized flow of 500-600 m3/s every month
regardless of the season. He also indicated that Turkey
would continue providing the 500 m3/s minimum flow to Syria
indefinitely absent a comprehensive agreement, but warned
that the GOT had no obligation to continue releasing these
higher flows, adding that Syria could not count on more than
the guaranteed 500 m3/s flow in the future.

12. (SBU) In response to severe water shortages in Damascus
resulting from years of drought and exploding demand, Syrian
water authorities turned to the Barada River to bolster
supply. About six years ago, the Damascus municipality began
pumping water from the Barada and built a pipeline that can
transport one m3/s of the river,s average 2.7 m3/s flow to
the city to supplement other sources. This project, however,
represents a short-term &band-aid8 solution to the
capital,s deteriorating water situation. Both the al-Awaj
and the Barada Rivers that supply Damascus are quickly drying
up, such that the main source of potable water for Damascus
is now the Al-Fija spring. A local Syrian water expert
stressed that the Barada, Fija, and groundwater &cocktail8
would not keep up with Damascus, chronic water deficits in
the medium to long-term.

13. (SBU) Groundwater: Groundwater sources account for
nearly two-thirds of Syria,s total water supply and provide
the vast majority of its potable water, although no exact
figures are available. Thus, stemming the rapid depletion of
groundwater tables throughout the country is a chief concern
of the SARG. In the Aleppo area, groundwater tables have
dropped one to three m/yr., descending from 60 to 105 meters
below the surface in the past 20 years, strictly due to
irrigation. Heightening the concern is the fact that in
Syria,s arid regions, where groundwater plays an even more
critical role in the local economy and daily life, the tables
are not replenished by rain or irrigation seepage. According
to ICARDA,s experts, the sustainability of groundwater )
more than any other factor - will determine the long-term
viability of Syria,s agricultural sector. Inefficient
irrigation systems, highly subsidized diesel fuel (for water
pumps), cheap labor and lack of metering have resulted in
over-pumping of groundwater sources and widespread drilling
of ever-deeper wells. Indeed, well-drilling among Syrians,
for both agricultural and residential purposes, has reached
epic proportions. Water shortages in the main springs
serving Damascus and suburbs (due in part to consistent
droughts) have forced the utilization of groundwater on a
massive scale. The Damascus Directorate of Water Resources

DAMASCUS 00004094 005 OF 008


reported in July 2006 that over 50,000 wells exist in the
Damascus greater metropolitan area, of which only 12,000 are
legal. (Note: Syrian law requires that &legal8 wells have
permits and meters, so that the government can monitor water
consumption from them. Syrians frequently circumvent the
SARG,s monitoring efforts. End note.)

14. (SBU) Rainwater: Rain does not make up a significant
portion of Syria,s total water supply. Syria,s Coastal
basin, north of Lebanon, receives in excess of 350 mm of
rainfall per year, giving this region a modest annual water
surplus and keeping it fertile for agriculture. Syria
harvests some rainwater, but not a significant amount, from
this basin. More arid climates elsewhere in the country
produce evaporation rates that prevent any usable
accumulation of rainwater.

15. (SBU) Treated wastewater: Syria is increasingly turning
to wastewater to bolster its water supply, but financing new
water treatment facilities is a major inhibitor. Syria has
long used treated wastewater, produced by residential and
industrial activities, exclusively for irrigation. (Note:
Syria currently does not treat wastewater in order to make it
potable or acceptable for residential usage. End note.) The
UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that in
1993 Syria treated 60% of its wastewater, and all independent
sources concur that since then the SARG has expanded these
efforts modestly in an attempt to ameliorate the country,s
persistent water shortages and boost its agricultural
production. The Ministry of Housing expects to complete
construction on two sewage treatment plants by the end of
2006 and four more in 2007, but this would not make much of a
dent in Damascus, current 400 million m3 water deficit.
Based on the current round of treatment plant-construction
and the SARG,s fiscal position, Syria,s future efforts to
expand Syria,s supply of treated wastewater will depend on
the availability of foreign financing.

16. (SBU) Desalinization: At present, Syria has no
desalinization plants due to the high expense of such
technology and the current availability of cheaper sources of
potable water. Independent experts, however, agree that,
given rising residential water demand, Syria will almost
inevitably have to build desalinization facilities in another
decade or so as the potable water supply from other sources
peaks.

17. (SBU) Infrastructure: Water networks: Of poor quality
to begin with, Syria,s generally dilapidated municipal water
networks waste 40-60% of the water that passes through them
and pollutes much of the rest of the water that does not leak
out, according to SARG officials and Syrian academics. The
SARG has initiated an effort to repair this antiquated
infrastructure. The government,s revamping of the networks
began about five years ago in Damascus where the Japanese
funded the complete replacement of the Damascus city water
pipes over a lengthy period. In the past year, the effort
has broadened to other municipalities, where the upgrading
process has slowed. European financing ) including a 90
million loan from European Investment Bank and a 26.7 million
loan from the German Construction Bank ) will fund the
SARG,s program to broaden the Damascus potable water network
further into the suburbs, starting in 2007.

18. (SBU) Dams: Syria,s 159 dams, mostly regulatory in
nature, have storage capacity exceeding 15.8 cubic
kilometers. Syria has nine dams currently under construction
or not yet in operation. Many of Syria,s dams are
approaching the end of their lifecycles and require extensive
(and expensive) repairs, according to a Syrian source.
Syria,s many outdated, Eastern Bloc-designed and constructed
dams raise a host of safety concerns as well. The 2002
breach of the Zeyzoun Dam (Syria,s fourth largest in terms
of storage capacity), which caused significant economic and
humanitarian damage (ref D), provided a wake-up call to the
SARG. Since the Zeyzoun disaster, the SARG has quietly begun
reinforcing its major dams, particularly those on the
Euphrates due to lingering fears of a possible collapse of

DAMASCUS 00004094 006 OF 008


Turkey,s mammoth Ataturk Dam. By contrast, the SARG has so
far neglected to renovate the drainage systems of the
Euphrates dams because of the prohibitive cost. The
dysfunctional drainage system puts 10,000 hectares of
irrigated land out of production each year through
over-salinization.

19. (SBU) Pipelines: To meet the long-term water needs of
Damascus and its suburbs, the SARG has been exploring two
massive projects to transport water from well-endowed sources
to the ailing city: 1) the Euphrates-Damascus pipeline, and
2) the Coast-Damascus pipeline. Both projects present major
technical hurdles and financial burdens because they would
require widespread use of expensive counter-gravity pumps.
The price tag for each pipeline would exceed $1.5 billion --
probably by a lot, given the SARG,s history of cost
underestimation. The SARG has recently shown more interest
in the Coast-Damascus pipeline, as it presents three
advantages. First, coastal basin water is less polluted than
the oversalinated Euphrates water, especially important
because most of the water would go toward human consumption.
Second, the SARG could avoid international politics with the
Coast-Damascus pipeline, but would have to engage with its
downstream neighbor, Iraq, in order to pursue the Euphrates
pipeline option. Finally, if the SARG eventually developed a
desalinization capability on Syria,s Mediterranean coast, as
most experts anticipate, it could link the desalinized water
supply to the Coastal pipeline. The Coast-Damascus pipeline
project was undergoing a feasibility study, as the SARG hoped
to operationalize the pipeline by 2020, but has been delayed
indefinitely due to funding problems.

20. (SBU) Water Sector Management and Governance: "Too many
cooks in the kitchen": Syrian water sector management is
plagued by overlapping agency portfolios, fragmented and
vague water laws, unqualified staff, minimal coordination
among government departments, and inadequate centralized
planning and oversight. Officially, the SARG,s water sector
governance institutions consists of: the Ministry of
Irrigation (ostensibly the lead water sector agency); the
Ministry of Agriculture, Directorate of Irrigation and Water
Uses; the Ministry of Housing and Public Services,
Directorate of Water Supply and Waste Water; the State
Planning Commission,s Irrigation and Agriculture Sector; the
State Environmental Affairs Commission,s Water Environment
Safety Sector; the Ministry of Local Government; and a host
of municipal water directorates. In July 2006, the DG of the
Damascus Directorate of Water Resources complained publicly
about the SARG,s lack of coordinated management of the water
sector, blaming the failure on the existence of too many
water authorities who did not cooperate. Recognizing its
dysfunction, the SARG proposed a plan in September 2005 to
establish a General Commission for Water Resources that would
restructure the Irrigation Ministry to create a central
authority for managing water resources and local authorities
for utilizing water. Exacerbating the difficulties of
managing Syria,s water resources, the SARG possesses no
systematic data management, storage or collection networks
with which to monitor the country,s water situation. In
fact, demonstrating its weak governing capabilities and
fundamental information deficiencies, the SARG has so far
utterly failed even to implement its 2000 plan to enhance
monitoring of water resources by installing meters on all
groundwater pumps around the country.

21. (SBU) International Relations: Syria shares surface water
resources with all of its neighbors, except Israel. (Note:
The issue of water rights in the Sea of Galilee represents
one the main sticking points in Syrian-Israeli negotiations
over the future of the Golan. End Note.) Syria relies on its
riparian neighbors, particularly Turkey which controls the
headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, for a
substantial portion of its water supply. Given the regional
scaricity of water and Syria,s own modest resources, water
has been a politicized and generally contentious issue
between Syria and its neighbors for years.

22. (SBU) Tripartite Negotiations on the Tigris-Euphrates

DAMASCUS 00004094 007 OF 008


Basin: Management of this basin continues to top the SARG,s
international water agenda because of the Syrian economy,s
reliance on irrigation water from the Euphrates. Despite a
warming of Turkish-Syrian and Turkish-Iraqi relations the
past few years, negotiations to reach a comprehensive
agreement on the future of the Tigris-Euphrates Basin by the
three riparian states show no significant signs of resuming.
A locally-based Turkish diplomat cites Syria and Iraq,s
unrealistic demands, lack of information-sharing and
inefficient water infrastructure as obstacles to progress.
He stated that the GOT viewed the SARG,s recent public
praise of Turkey for releasing more than 500 m3/s from the
Euphrates and private acknowledgement of Syria,s benefit of
Turkey,s regulation of the Euphrates as good signs of
Syria,s desire to reengage on the future of the basin. The
Turkish diplomat identified the Iraqis as the main stumbling
block to resuming negotiations, observing that &this issue
is not Iraq,s top priority right now.8

23. (SBU) Turkey: Having ceased accusing Turkey of both
polluting the Euphrates and using water as a political
weapon, Syria has recently used its official press to praise
Turkey,s management of the Euphrates headwaters.
Nevertheless, Syria publicly opposes Turkey,s plans to build
the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris. Syria,s greatest concern
vis--vis water relations with Turkey will remain the flow it
receives from the Euphrates.

24. (SBU) Even though negotiations on the Tigris-Euphrates
basin remain stalled, Syria and Turkey seem poised to
increase cooperation on the Orontes River. The local Turkish
diplomat mentioned two promising joint projects still in
their infancy. The first is an &Early Warning System8 for
floods managed by a Syrian-Turkish technical committee. The
diplomat explained that the GOT was ready to begin forming
and planning the technical committee, but was waiting on the
SARG to produce its delegation of technical experts to
compose half the Joint Committee, which he expected to start
meeting in September 2006. The second is a dam on the
Syrian-Turkish border. The Turkish diplomat remarked that
fairly intense GOT-SARG discussions on such a project had
occurred, but noted that Turkey was again waiting on Syria to
move forward.

25. (SBU) Iraq: Other than voicing joint opposition to
Turkish dam-building on the Tigris River, Syria and Iraq have
taken no noticeable steps to engage on water issues. It does
not appear that Iraq,s Water Minister, whom Syria had
invited to Damascus for talks in 2004 (ref E), ever accepted.

26. (SBU) Jordan: Water resources remain a source of friction
in Syrian-Jordanian relations, in spite of the completion and
inauguration of the &Unity8 Dam on the border in 2006.
Jordanian officials continue to complain about Syria,s
pollution of the Yarmouk River, illegal dam-building and
capture of water that should flow into Jordan (ref F). On
the other hand, the SARG normally publicizes its annual
release of three to seven million cubic meters of water to
Jordan as being a response to an official plea from the GOJ.
This year, in an apparent gesture of goodwill, the SARG
quietly released the annual allotment of water to Jordon
without the attendant negative press. At a June 2006 meeting
of the Jordanian-Syrian Higher Committee, a joint technical
committee co-chaired by both countries, PMs, the GOJ and the
SARG signed a cooperation agreement on water-sharing (ref G).
The details of this agreement have not become public.

27. (SBU) Lebanon: According to Syrian and international
water experts, Lebanon is a natural net water exporter whose
overabundant supply has historically languished because of
inefficient infrastructure and incompetent resource
management (ref H). Under their current agreement, Lebanon
draws 80 million m3/year of water from the Orontes River,
with the remainder flowing to Syria. It is not unreasonable
to imagine Lebanon, under the right circumstances, becoming
an important water source for Syria in the long run.

28. (SBU) Comment: With groundwater tables severely

DAMASCUS 00004094 008 OF 008


depleted and surface water supplies from abroad essentially
fixed, efforts to make up Syria,s water shortfalls by
boosting supply via water treatment facilities,
desalinization plants and intranational pipelines appear to
hold the most promise. Yet these artificial solutions are
extremely, perhaps prohibitively, expensive. Faced with
seriously declining oil production, the SARG is looking to
Syria,s agricultural sector to compensate, but ongoing water
shortages jeopardize the sustainability of Syria,s
agricultural expansion. A prolonged period of
under-satisfied urban residential demand for water
constitutes another potential source of social turmoil.
Finally, if the technological solutions to Syria,s
persistent water deficits prove infeasible, the SARG may
aggressively pursue additional water supply from surface
sources that it shares with its neighbors.
CORBIN

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