With fuel shortages that have paralyzed the entire country, which has been mired in an economic and financial crisis for the past two years, supermarkets in Lebanon have been hit by bottled water shortages due to manufacturing and distribution problems.
“We have reduced our production by 50% in the last few weeks. Our factory operated six days a week. It only works three days a week because there is no fuel,” Ghassan Geagea, sales manager at Lebanese bottled water maker Tannourine Mineral Water, told L’Orient Today. “The shortage of heating oil is reaching unbelievable proportions. We’ve been in this situation for 20 days and it will get worse if we don’t get fuel oil,” he warns.
Plants that bottle water and run on fuel have been unable to source enough heating oil to power their generators, which in the absence of government energy are essential to pump water and make plastic bottles from preforms — an intermediate plastic product which is then formed into a plastic container. Even after the water has been bottled and packaged, fuel shortages hamper distribution to supermarkets, businesses and homes.
In this context, factories across the country are now struggling to keep their activity going, assures L’Orient Today George Nasrawi, vice-president of the Confederation of Lebanese Industrialists. He said the crisis has also slowed operations at factories that process imported plastic into preforms that water companies then use to make bottles. “We used to produce 300,000 cases of water a week. With reduced operating times, we are now producing 150,000 cases per week, that’s all we can produce,” emphasizes Tannourine’s Ghassan Geagea.
In Lebanon, residents rely solely on bottled water for drinking and often for cooking as tap water is undrinkable. According to USAid, Lebanon’s water quality continues to deteriorate due to surface and groundwater pollution caused by decades of urbanization, the lack of proper waste disposal systems, and the illegal dumping of all kinds of waste in rivers, estuaries, and valleys.
Typically, residents rely on water bottling companies like Tannourine to deliver gallons of water each week, but shortages have forced these companies and supermarkets to ration the amount of bottled water sold to individuals. For example, last week several grocery stores and supermarkets across the country limited the amount of water sold per customer. Images circulating on social media showed stocks of bottled water on store shelves running low. Last Friday night, the Matahen supermarket on Beirut’s Corniche al-Mazraa ran out of water cans, while another supermarket in the same area that still stocked bottled water limited purchases to two registers per customer.
Currently, fuel shortages are mainly affecting the manufacture of large and small water bottles, Ghassan Geagea said, while the company is prioritizing the production and distribution of large 19-litre water containers, which are typically delivered to homes once a week. Note that Tannourine, for example, is currently unable to accept new subscription requests for its water delivery services from households or businesses. “Until this problem is solved, we will not accept any more new customers,” emphasizes the managing director.
Running water in danger
To this prospect of drinking water shortages, we must add the possibility that the water supply at the faucet could also become scarce. Water can only come from domestic faucets as long as there is electricity to pump it from reservoirs, through water treatment plants, and then to its domestic and commercial destinations.
On Tuesday, the Beirut and Mount Lebanon Water Authority announced in a statement that it was to implement a “strict fuel shortage rationing program” in most areas under its jurisdiction. This means that access to tap water will be restricted depending on the availability of heating oil.
This announcement comes in addition to two water scarcity warnings issued by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in less than a month. In the second, released via a statement released on Saturday, Unicef warned that four million people in Lebanon could lose critical access to water or face water shortages “in the coming days”. “UNICEF is calling for the urgent restoration of power supply – the only way to keep the water supply running,” the statement continued.
(This article was originally published in English on the L’Orient Today website on August 24, 2021.)
Due to fuel shortages that have paralyzed the entire country, which has been mired in an economic and financial crisis for the past two years, supermarkets in Lebanon have been hit by a shortage of bottled water due to manufacturing and distribution problems in recent weeks at 50% Our factory ran six days a day…