American University of Beirut

On Developing a Sustainable Solution Space to Resolve Water Crisis in Arid Environments

Different meanings of water crisis and their implications are examined to understand, explain and sustainably manage conflicting water needs and demands. A Sustainability Solutions Space (SSS) is proposed for decision making by providing a framework that requires the convergence of principles and pragmatism. It emphasizes the rigor of scientific rationality while bounded by pluralistic and interpretive notions of societal impact. Such a framework can provide a consistent set of SSS targets considering multifaceted nature of interactions among different sustainability indicators. The proposed strategy does not pre-define but identify scenarios and solutions that are informed by the context and lie within a SSS. Such a framework acknowledges that the complexity of water conflicts is neither generalizable nor specifiable. Contingent resolution through adaptive learning is the approach needed to address such problems. Identification and operationalization of the SSS is an iterative and negotiated process. It will show how the use of SSS is different than conventional planning and management and provides an illustrative example of identifying SSS using examples of complex water problems.

The session featured two keynote presentations: the first was by Dr. Shafiqul Islam, Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Professor of Water Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Director of the Water Diplomacy Program, and Visiting URB Scholar, who introduced the notion of SSS for decision making under conflicting resources needs and demands; and the second was by Dr. Wajdi Najem, Vice Rector and Honorary Dean, Director of the Regional Center for Water and the Environment, Saint Joseph University who gave an overview on water challenges and the situational analysis in Lebanon.

The panelists included Dr. Ibrahim Alameddine, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MSFEA, AUB who shed light on water quality impairments in the country; Hadi Jaafar, Assistant Professor of Irrigation Engineering and Water Management in the Agriculture Department at FAFS, AUB who discussed the water-food relationship and the role of technology in water management; Maya Atieh, Water Resources Engineer, Lecturer at LAU, and President of the Lebanon Youth Parliament for Water (LYPW) who highlighted the major challenges faced by Lebanese youth and their pressing priorities in the water sector while discussing the role of the LYPW in connecting Lebanese youth who are passionate about water; and Nadim Farajallah, Director, Climate Change and Environment, Issam Fares Institute, AUB who presented on the state of water security and governance in the country.

The panel was moderated by Dean Rabi H. Mohtar and was followed by an open discussion and Q&A session with the audience.​

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