Professor Dennis B. McLaughlin
PI at MIT
Professor Elfatih Eltahir
PI at MIT
Professor Taha B.M.J. Ouarda
PI at Masdar Institute
Water, food, and energy challenges around the world require a better understanding of possible changes in available resources and a more efficient approach for the management of these resources. This is especially true in arid and semi-arid regions that are likely to experience significant population growth. This research program will develop an integrated model for the optimal planning and management of water, land and renewable energy resources on a regional (multinational) scale. The proposed model will provide for the possibility of climate change in the development of the management strategies. Two case studies will be considered: the United Arab Emirates and the Nile basin countries (Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt). These complementary studies will provide the opportunity to examine the potential advanatges of greater regional cooperation and coordination of limited natural resources.
The basic idea is that natural resources such as land, water, and energy may provide greater benefits for all parties if they are allocated and managed from a regional perspective. For example, greater overall agricultural productivity may be achieved if crops are grown where climatic and soil properties are most favorable and distributed throughout the region rather than only in the country of origin. Similar reasoning may apply to coordinated regional use of renewable energy resources. In such "win-win" scenarios all parties could receive greater benefit. Stated more quantitatively, optimization of natural resources for the region gives a net benefit greater than the sum of the benefits obtained by maximizing the benefit for each country in the region. This regional optimum can be implemented without infringing on national sovereignty if appropriate incentives, transfer policies, and marketing arrangements are agreed upon by all parties.
This interdisciplinary research program contributes directly to the mission of Masdar Institute of Science and Technology by responding to challenges related to water resources, climate change, sustainability, and energy security. It is also consistent with the Institute's plan to establish and continually nurture interdisciplinary and collaborative multi-institution research and development. The methods developed and results obtained during this project will facilitate more informed decision-making, providing a basis for sustainable planning and management of natural resources in the larger region centered on the UAE. Climate change in the UAE will be influenced by land surface, ocean, and atmospheric conditions in this larger region. Conversely, the impacts of such change will influence land and water use throughout the region. Good understanding of these regional connections is needed to achieve water, food and energy security in the region.
The topics considered in this project are especially important for the UAE, given the arid climate that characterizes the region, the need to address rapid increases in domestic and industrial water demand, and the commitment from government agencies and private institutions to sustainable development and renewable energy sources. The project outcomes are highly relevant to the Masdar initiative and the mission of the Institute and particularly the thematic areas "Water and Environment" and "Integrated Sustainable Development". This project will deliver outcomes of immediate practical utility not only to Abu Dhabi and the UAE, but also to other countries in the Gulf region and in the Middle East and Africa, including the Nile basin countries.