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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
 
In the first few months of 2014 Dr. El Fadel and his team continued their water quality sampling and analysis program in the Qaroun Reservoir. Nine sampling locations are being sampled bi-monthly to collect data on physical, chemical, and biological characteristics. They will incorporate use of a newly acquired multi-sensor water quality sonde with their existing monitoring plan, as the sonde will provide for better vertical profiling of the reservoir. The objective of this monitoring program is to examine changes in water quality within the reservoir over time and to link observed changes to anthropogenic, meteorological, and seasonal drivers. With 2013-2014 being a particularly dry year, the reservoir’s volume and area have diminished, limiting the input of freshwater from the Litani and impeding the dilution of pollutants. A lake water quality model is currently being developed to predict the response of the reservoir to different nutrient loadings. Concurrently, the water quality sampling program has been synchronized with the overpass of the Landsat 7 and 8 satellites. The satellite data have been used to develop and calibrate several empirical models that can predict water quality parameters from the satellite radiometric data. In conjunction with the sampling program, a structured questionnaire was designed and is being administered to municipalities and local stakeholders in the villages that have direct access to the lake. The questionnaire will determine various uses of the reservoir, assess the general perception of the water quality in the lake, and determine how the pollution levels are affecting the livelihood of the local population. As of late April 2014, more than 20 questionnaires had been completed with municipality heads, local fishermen, boat operators, and lakeside restaurant owners. In addition, a use attainability analyses is being conducted for each of the designated uses identified in the survey.

In addition to the data collection activities, work continues on calibrating and downscaling various climate forecasting and water use models. In parallel, the team has begun working on the part of their project related to the agricultural sector, as the climate predictions will be form the basis for defining the probability of adverse weather and climatic conditions resulting in poor agricultural yields and determining how this probability will change as the larger climate patterns are altered. To this end, training has been completed on the use of the Soil-Water-Vegetation Cropping Systems Simulation (CropSyst) Model to analyze the agricultural yield in the basin based on climate simulations. Cropsyst simulations using WRF/GFS data for the years 2003 and 2010 will start once the data collection is complete.
 

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