The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Development, Security, and Cooperation
Policy and Global Affairs
Home About DSC
Quick Links

FREE Reports     

Download free PDFs of
ALL Academy Reports

All reports available on the National Academies Press (NAP) website are now offered free of charge to web visitors.

Contact us

Keck Center
500 5th St NW - KWS 502
Washington, DC 20001

Tel: (202) 334-2800
Fax: (202) 334-2139


Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 1 (2011 Deadline)

A collaborative approach towards integrated water resources management in the Litani River basin: opportunities for climate change adaptation and socioeconomic growth   

PI: Mutasem El Fadel, American University Beirut 
U.S. Partner:  James Smith, Princeton University
Project Dates: May 2012 - May 2016

Project Overview

Building on USAID’s past and on‐going programs in the Litani river basin in Lebanon, this project will study the vulnerability of the Litani to climate change with an emphasis on water resources and quality, agriculture productivity and food security, and public health protection. These researchers will work to provide a framework integrating climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation using advanced simulation tools with decision support systems. These data will then be used to develop policies and investment options tied to socioeconomic improvement through cost benefit analyses. The project should enhance water quality management in the Litani basin while providing a collaborative platform for application and adaptation of new technologies as well as capacity building.
Specific activities to be carried out include applying the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research in order to downscale climate change predictions to a watershed river scale for vulnerability assessments. The U.S. partners on this project are currently using the WRF model to conduct a similar vulnerability assessment of the water cycle in the Baltimore area, so their experience should be helpful to the Lebanese group as they strive to produce the first detailed, high-resolution evaluation of the impacts of climate on the hydrology of Lebanon in general and the Litani basin in particular. Based on the results of the climate vulnerability simulations, the researchers will subsequently define and analyze various adaptation strategies, focusing on such aspects as agricultural yields, alternative crops, and water management practices. Risk and socioeconomic assessments of climate change impacts will be conducted, and the various vulnerability, adaptation, and socioeconomic indicators will be integrated into a decision support system to promote sound, evidence-based policy creation. Through this collaborative project, the Lebanese researchers and students involved will gain experience with cutting-edge tools for assessing climate change impacts and vulnerability and will have enhanced capacity to contribute to strategic policy planning in Lebanon with regard to climate change and its effects. 
Summary of Recent Activities
During the most recent reporting period, project coordination continued with Princeton University whereby periodic meetings (via Skype and in person) were held with Dr. Elie Bou-Zeid, Co-PI of the counterpart project at Princeton University. Dr. Bou Zeid visited AUB once during this year and is taking part in the supervision team for PhD student Renalda El-Samra. He is continuously in touch with the team in Beirut and co-advising her particularly in conducting and analyzing climate simulation results using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). In this context, climate variability was examined through high-resolution (1-km grid spacing) dynamic downscaling conducted using the WRF model with the Global Forecast Model (GFS) reanalysis (GFS/WRF) and the High Resolution Atmospheric Model (HiRAM) historical simulations (HiRAM/WRF). The analysis was conducted over the country of Lebanon, which is characterized by a complex topography that magnifies the effect of orographic precipitation. GFS/WRF simulations for the past historical years (2003 and 2010) were finalized successfully, results were evaluated and write-up of the first paper depicting these results was completed. Furthermore, HiRAM/WRF simulations for the past historical years (2003 and 2010) and for the future critical years for RCP 4.5 were completed successfully, in addition to three out of four future critical years for RCP 8.5. Evaluation of the HiRAM/WRF simulation outputs for the past historical and the future completed critical years for both RCP is underway and the write-up of the second paper related the results of these simulations is ongoing. Instruction has been conducted on the use of the crop simulation model (CropSyst) that will be used to quantify the influence of climate change on the Litani river basin agricultural yield as inferred from WRF past and future simulations. Critical crops in the study area were selected (wheat, maize and potatoes), and relevant weather, yield, soil and management records were collected and are currently being analyzed.

The water quality sampling and analysis program continues through the third year at the Qaroun Reservoir at the nine pre-defined sampling locations within the reservoir and at the monitoring station on the main stem of the Litani River just before it discharges into the reservoir. The objective of this monitoring program is to examine the spatio-temporal variability in water quality within the reservoir and to link the observed changes to anthropogenic, meteorological, as well as seasonal drivers within the watershed. The collected data to date has shown that the reservoir is largely hypereutrophic across seasons and persistent algal blooms have been observed, especially in the summer. Moreover, a thick hypoxic layer has been recorded in the deep sections of the lake due to summer stratification. Based on measured temperature and dissolved oxygen vertical profiles, the reservoir experiences Fall turnover that appears to promote algal blooms. With 2013-2014 being a particularly dry year, the input of freshwater from the Litani River were largely reduced and as such the reservoir’s volume and area were diminished and the dilution of pollutants impeded. These factors resulted in the deterioration of the reservoir’s water quality in the summer of 2014 and the development of extensive Microcystis blooms, a toxin forming cyanobacteria, throughout the summer. The severe draught of 2014 also provided an opportunity to look closer at the role that the lake sediments play in the overall nutrient dynamics of the reservoir. Currently, a Structural Equation Model (SEM) is being developed to quantify the relative contribution of autochthonous and allochthonous phosphorus loads in promoting the eutrophication of the reservoir. Preliminary results from the SEM model will be presented at the 17th International Water Association (IWA) International Conference on Diffuse Pollution and Eutrophication that was held on September, 13-18, 2015 in Berlin, Germany.

A Water Evaluation And Planning (WEAP) model has been calibrated and validated for the Upper Litani Basin (ULB) using the existing river gauges. The model was then used to assess the impacts of a changing climate on the availability of water in the Litani. Statistically downscaled future predictions on precipitation and temperature from five Global Circulation Models (GCMs) under the four IPCC-defined storylines were used to assess the impacts of future climate change on the different economic sectors in ULB. The scenarios account for different future projections relating to population growth, economic growth, adoption of advanced water conservation technologies, wastewater reuse, changes in crop types, and distribution network enhancements. The water demands associated with each management scenario were then compared with the projected future water supply under future climate change. The assessment allowed for the ranking of each of the water management scenarios based on internationally adopted water stress indices and performance metrics. Work is ongoing to spatially refine the downscaling of the GCM data by using dynamic downscaling instead of statistical downscaling.

The four graduate team members continued to develop their graduate research in parallel with the project. Renalda El-Samra is working on downscaling climate change predictions to a watershed river scale for vulnerability assessment using the WRF model developed by NCAR. Eliza Sara Deutsch is working on water quality in the Qaroun reservoir and is managing the water quality monitoring program at the Qaroun reservoir while concurrently working on linking the in situ data with the overpass of the Landsat 7 and 8 satellites. Marlene Tomaszkiewicz is working on dew water as a component in a climate change adaptation strategy. She is managing the weather stations that were installed in various locations in the basin, synthesizing and processing monitoring data to assess the feasibility of utilizing dew to supplement water supply in agricultural and re-forestation. Lastly, Abbas Fayad completed his work on calibrating and validating the WEAP model, which he applied to assess the impacts of a changing climate on the availability of water in the Litani under various future water management demand scenarios.