Water of the Middle East and North Africa

Water Management and Challenges in Libya

Gaberoun oasis - Water management in Libya
Photo 1: Gaberoun oasis, southern Libya. Source: Pinterest.

Water management in Libya

Key governmental organizations and regulations

In November 2012, the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) was established to manage water resources organizations and their infrastructures. Historically, water governance fell under the General Water Authority (GWA), which was responsible for integrating water resources management and still carries out this function under the umbrella of the MWR. The key water laws and regulations issued in Libya are presented in Table 1. These govern water allocations, irrigation and drainage, industrial effluent discharges and municipal water supply and sanitation.[1]

Table 1: Important water laws and regulations in Libya.[2]

ActivityActivity Governing Laws/RegulationsGoverning Authority
Water allocations• Law 3 year 1982 on Regulating the Utilization of Water Resources • General People’s Committee Memo no. 612 / year 1993 on Manmade River water allocations • Law 15 year 2003 On Environmental Protection and EnhancementLevel 1: MWR, AEMMmRP Level 2: MOAAMW, GCWW, HIB, MOEE estimate their needs and apply to the MWR to coordinate the respective water allocations
Water quality and National drinking water standards• Libyan Standard 82 year1992 Drinking water standards • Law 106/1976 On Health • Law 15/ 2003 On Environmental Protection and Enhancement • Law 3/ 1982 On Regulating the Utilization of Water ResourcesLevel 1: MOH Level 2: AEMMmRP and GCWW for self quality control Level 3: casual university and NGO for quality checks
Municipal Water supply and Sanitation• Law 106/ 1976 On Health • Law 15/ 2003 On Environmental Protection and Enhancement • Libyan Standard 82 year1992 Drinking water standardsLevel 1: GCWW for providing the service meeting the guidelines Level 2: MOH, MWR to conduct quality check points on the system Level 3: casual university and NGO for quality checks
Industrial effluent standards• None
Irrigation and drainage• NoneMOAAMW

In mid-2016, the MWR was renamed the General Water Resources Authority (MWRA) but retains most of the same functions, structures and framework.

Libya relies mostly on public sources to fund its water resources projects. The private sector’s share is currently insignificant and limited to support for small desalination plants producing bottled drinking water.[3] However, the water sector aims to apply N-tuples helix modelling in which the private sector engages strongly in planning, executing and managing water resources projects.

Water Challenges in Libya

Water supply and sanitation (WSS) activities in Libya are concentrated in urban areas where 89% of the population lives. This puts rural areas at a disadvantage, impacting the planning, implementation and management of WSS. In general, the following challenges are recognized in urban and rural communities.[4]

Challenges of urban WSS institutions:
1. Weak enforcement of existing laws.

2. No clear criteria for targeting WSS sector performance.

3. Limited human resources for the management of water resources.

4. Weak mechanisms for ensuring good governance, transparency and reporting of WSS projects.

Challenges of rural WSS institutions:

1. No regulatory framework for rural WSS.

2. Centralized institutions with no clear aim to segregate urban from rural governance.

3. Very low population densities and very large areas to be governed.

4. Non-enforcement of existing laws.

5. No clear criteria for targeting rural WSS sector performance.

6. Weak capacities to implement existing plans in rural WSS in terms of human resources, financing and clearly defined institutional roles.

7. Limited human resources for water resources management.

8. Weak mechanisms for ensuring good governance, transparency and reporting of rural WSS projects.

In addition to the above, urban and rural areas face several other challenges to water supply and sanitation planning.[5] These are:

1. Water scarcity and excessive groundwater abstraction.

2. Inadequate institutional framework.

3. Seawater intrusion and water quality deterioration.

4. Illegal use of groundwater.

5. Poor crop yields.

6. Fragmentation of agricultural land holdings.

Climate change

A study by Robert Good land indicated that climate change impacts in Libya as a whole have not been assessed, and in general no useful monitoring is being carried to measure the impact of climate change on water demand and transboundary resources.[6] However, several studies have evaluated the impact of climate change on certain regions of Libya in relation to the water sector. These studies assess the impact of the anthropogenic factor on the rise of temperature in the aeras where they are ecexcuted. A multisector national committee headed by the Environmental General Authority initiated a project to evaluate the impact of climate change, but this is still in its evolutionary stage.[7]

[1] CEDARE, 2014.Libya Water Sector M&E Rapid Assessment Report. Monitoring and Evaluation for Water in North Africa (MEWINA) project, Water Resources Management Program, CEDARE.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] General Water Authority , 2014 , Water and Energy for Life in Libya (WELL) , Project funded by the European Commission No. 295143, FP7, Libya.
[6] Goodland, R. 2007. More crucial than oil scarcity: climate change policies for a sustainable Libya. Climate Policy, 7, 549-542.
[7] Ibid.