Texas water issues similar to Middle East, professor says

Fort Worth and Beirut are more than 6,000 miles apart, but a professor from Lebanon says Texas is facing similar water challenges to the Middle East.

“There are similarities between what (Texas) has experienced and what we have experienced,” said Nadim Farajalla, associate professor of environmental hydrology at the American University of Beirut. Farajalla spoke at the Dee J. Kelly Alumni Center at TCU Tuesday night.

Around 60 people from campus and the Fort Worth community came to hear the talk on water depletion in the Middle East and the conservation efforts taking place.

The Middle East is experiencing extreme population growth, which further depletes the already parched water supplies, said Farajalla, who works in the university's Department of Landscape Design and Ecosystem Management.

Although he gave several examples of climate change, Farajalla said population growth is a larger threat to water supplies.

“Climate change is happening but it is a long term deal. What’s really scary is how fast the population is growing,” said Farajalla, who is also the faculty research director of the university’s Climate Change and Environment in the Arab World Program at the Issam Fares Institute.

Farajalla suggested several strategies to reduce water waste. Harvesting rainwater, improving efficiency of desalination and recycling sewage water are all options, he said.

The director of TCU's Ranch Management program, Jeff Geider. nominated Farajalla for TCU’s Global Innovator Award.

The award includes a $25,000 grant that endorses a long-term project between TCU and Farajalla to advance his work in Lebanon, said James English, co-chair of the Global Citizenship initiative.

English said Farajalla will be working with Geider on a long-term project involving water and ecosystem management in Lebanon.

Throughout the project, Farajalla will make several trips to TCU to work with Geider and interact with students.

TCU professor Becky Johnson in the School of Geology, Energy, and the Environment, said the talk brought affirmation.

“We are already doing some of the conservation measures (Farajalla) mentioned right here in Fort Worth," Johnson said.

Farajalla has worked on projects in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Nigeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Angola and United Arab Emirates, according to the American University of Beirut website. These projects involved the design of erosion control measures, subsurface drainage networks and water supply networks.

English said he hopes those who attended the event walked away with a sense that people in Lebanon are facing many of the same challenges that Texans are. A few challenges include drought, improving water supply and balancing food and energy production with available water resources.

TCU student Stafford Sadler, a sophomore finance major, said the talk gave him a new perspective on water and the global issues involved.

Farajalla said water scarcity is an issue that cannot be ignored.

“To me, water is the essence of everything,” said Farajalla.