Executive Summary 

The Nahr el Kabir rises from numerous springs in Syria and in the Lebanon Mountain range. It runs a westerly course forming a natural border between northern Lebanon and Syria. The Nahr el Kabir maintains most of its natural seasonal characteristics as water regulation is limited on the main river stem and in the runoff generation area in Lebanon and Syria.

Environmental degradation is a major issue in the basin: the river is severely polluted by widespread discharge of untreated sewage and uncontrolled solid waste disposal. Other threats include recurrent floods and the spread of water hyacinth along the whole river course. The two countries cooperate on the basis of a 2002 water-sharing agreement, with several joint technical sub-committees tackling various issues related to the watershed.

Main Agreements 

Lebanon - Syria

2002 – Agreement between Lebanon and Syria to share the water of the Nahr el Kabir and build a joint dam on the main stem.

Key Concerns 

Water Quality

The Nahr el Kabir is severely polluted. The absence of sound agricultural practices, the uncontrolled discharge of untreated wastewater and the random disposal of solid waste by both riparians has led to widespread environmental degradation and poses a serious threat to public health. Concerns over water quality are not addressed in the Syrian-Lebanese water agreement.

  • Overlooking the Bqaiaa Plain near the village of Chadra, Lebanon, 2010. Source: Eileen Maternowski.
  • Bridge over the Nahr el Kabir near Hekr al Dahri, Lebanon, 2010. Source: Andreas Renck.
  • The invasive water hyacinth, which is clogging water channels in the basin, 2009. Source: Ministry of Energy and Water in Lebanon.
  • The Nahr el Kabir near the river mouth at Arida, Lebanon, 2010. Source: Andreas Renck.

Basin Facts 

Riparian Countries Lebanon, Syria
Basin Area Shares Lebanon 26%
Syria 74%
Basin Area 954 km2
River Length 77.8 km
Mean Annual Flow Volume 377 MCM
Dams 3 (max. storage capacity 75 MCM)
Projected Irrigated Area ~23,000 ha
Basin Population 530,000