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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 - April 2015

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 October-December 2013, the research team continued bi-monthly water quality sampling and analysis program in the Qaroun Reservoir and conducted six sampling trips to examine the spatio-temporal variability in water quality within the reservoir, to link observed changes to anthropogenic, meteorological, as well as seasonal drivers, and establish a connection between riverine nutrients loadings and the eutrophic status of the reservoir. The collected data to date has shown that the reservoir is hypereutrophic and algal blooms have been observed on all sampling trips. The water quality sampling program was synchronized with the overpass of the Landsat 7 and 8 satellites to allow for the development and calibration of empirical models that can predict water quality parameters from the satellite radiometric data. Once empirical models are fully calibrated and verified, they will be used to hindcast the water quality of the lake and to identify possible temporal trends. In conjunction with the sampling program, a questionnaire was distributed to municipalities and local stakeholders in the villages that have direct access to the lake in order to 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.  

A Water Evaluation and Planning (WEAP) model was calibrated and validated for the Upper Litani Basin (ULB) and 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 4 IPCC-defined storylines were used to assess the impacts of future climate change on the different economical sectors in the ULB. Trends in precipitation, temperature, and flow were assessed for statistical significance. Future water management demand scenarios in the ULRB were defined accounting 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 weather stations in the basin continue to be used for collection of weather data as well as for measurement of dew quantities; climate variability analysis was conducted over the country of Lebanon. Training and outreach efforts have been ongoing. Several conferences have been identified and several abstracts and papers have been submitted for potential presentations in 2014.

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