The FAS International Science Partnership (ISP) pilot project is set to take off in Amman this week with a workshop hosted by the Middle East Scientific Institute for Security (MESIS). The workshop will bring together an international team of engineers from the U.S. and Yemen to design collaborative projects that help address both countries’ interests in ensuring access to a safe and reliable supply of water and energy.
Collectively, the participants bring to the table a diversity of research interests, including wastewater treatment, water supply monitoring, electrification optimization, renewable energy, urban air pollution, and climate change.
Their skills are badly needed. Current projections show that the water situation in Yemen, already stressed, will become dire in the near future. Other daunting challenges lurk in providing reliable access to electricity, especially for those in remote regions.
However, our purpose here is not to create a one-way street of technology and expertise transfer from West to East. The U.S. has challenges of its own in balancing water-intensive energy and agricultural needs with the imperative of meeting private consumption demands and protecting the environment. Furthermore, regional, seasonal, annual, and even intra-decade variability in water supply makes water management enormously complicated – too complicated for any country to “solve” permanently. And this is even before the impacts of population growth and migration, economics, and technological innovation are taken into account.
The workshop will go Monday through Thursday. It will begin with two days of project design work as participants begin to integrate ideas from their previously-submitted research proposals. Then participants will be given a systems modeling training that will cover surface water modeling, groundwater modeling, and linear programming. Later in the week, they will get a first-hand look at how statewide water monitoring is being carried out in Jordan when they visit water monitoring stations on the King Abdullah Canal and King Talal Reservoir before concluding the week by meeting with the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation.
The goal for this stage of the pilot project is to develop collaborative research efforts that advance knowledge in the field as well as to create (or lay the foundation for) transformative projects that can be implemented on the ground. After the workshop concludes, the participants will continue their project design work and will seek out funding for implementation from public and private sources.
This U.S-Yemen pilot project will hopefully lay the groundwork for not only future work in Yemen, but also for similar projects in other places where politics complicates efforts to meaningfully address issues of shared concern among countries. The clock is ticking and the region’s water and energy problems aren’t getting easier.