As recent media articles have highlighted the potential for major cities around the world to run out of water, it’s become apparent the good stewardship of water resources is more than an environmental issue, it’s a humanitarian one and can have an impact on regional stability. It’s also an area where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has the ability to make an impact.
For decades, USACE has managed many of the water resources with the United States through its operation of levees, dams, dredging operations and flood control management. More recently USACE has been given the opportunity to share USACE’s water resource expertise with the Government of Pakistan through an Interagency Agreement with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Approximately 95 percent of Pakistan’s water is used for agricultural purposes, with 80 percent of its exports based on these sectors. Additionally, one-third of the nation’s energy generation is from hydropower generation. Pakistan is one of the world’s most water-stressed countries. Due to rapid population growth, inefficient use of existing water resources, low water storage capability, and impacts due to future climate change, the potential water crisis is threatening to severely impact the country’s future security, stability and sustainability.
The initial concept was conceived in 2013 when Jim Balocki, at the time the chief of Interagency and International Services (IIS) for USACE, and Ambassador Robin Raphel, a senior advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan at the State Department, were engaged in a series of strategic meetings that recognized the importance of water as a factor of regional stability in Southeast and Central Asia. The discussion turned to the need for expertise both to advise the U.S. government on technical and policy aspects of water resources and provide direct technical assistance to Pakistan.
“This led to the further development of the concept among USACE, Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the establishment of an interagency agreement to fund the USACE expertise. The key for success of the program would be identifying the right combination of water resources expertise, deployment experience, and diplomatic skills from within the USACE enterprise. Fortunately, the deployments of hundreds of USACE Civil Works personnel to Afghanistan, Iraq and disaster recovery zones over the past decades has created a cadre of expeditionary experts who have relevant experience and diplomatic ability to effectively perform a variety of missions within an interagency organization as well as bring the unique technical water resource expertise that only USACE can provide,“ said Lindy Wolner, at the time, USACE liaison to USAID and a senior program manager at USACE Headquarters.
William Doan, a senior water resources engineer out of USACE’s Northwestern Division and Mamie Brouwer, a senior program manager from Seattle District were selected by USACE Headquarters to provide expertise and supported by the Middle East District which has logistics and deployment expertise in the region. Mamie worked on the program for two years, while Doan continues to work on the program.
“I had performed very similar work in Kabul, Afghanistan 2009 through 2011, where I was essentially on-loan to the State Department and USAID, providing technical support to the Government of Afghanistan's Ministry of Water and Power and Embassy Mission to help develop and implement water policy for Afghanistan. I briefed the ISAF Commander and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan on water resources development and management on numerous occasions. I had really enjoyed the work and challenges in Afghanistan and looked at this new potential opportunity in Pakistan as a natural progression of my previous work in Afghanistan. One of one of my major assignments was to work on regional collaboration between Afghanistan and Pakistan on the joint development and operation of infrastructure on the shared Kabul River,” Doan said.
The overall goal of the program is to promote regional stability through the development and management major water resources in Pakistan and in the long term, regionally. USACE’s role is to help Pakistani engineers and scientists develop the technical capabilities and tools to evaluate and manage the Indus River Basin as an integrated system of irrigation, hydropower, flood risk management and environmental water supply. It is hoped that using these efforts will allow Pakistan to help mitigate some of the effects of climate change and rapid population growth and help optimize the allocation of water resources for food security, disaster prevention and preservation of the environment.
In addition to working closely with water resources personnel in Pakistan, Doan has also traveled with them to several training opportunities in the United States including a Regional Climate Modelling class at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO for two Ministry of Climate Change Scientists and a class in Water and Sediment Management at USACE's IWR Hydrologic Engineering Center (HEC) in Davis, CA for ten Pakistan Ministerial engineers. The ten engineers represented a broad cross section of Federal and Provincial water management in Pakistan, including: Federal Flood Commission, Water and Power Development Authority, Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources, Ministry of Climate Change Global Impact Study Centre, Punjab Irrigation Department, and Sindh Irrigation Department.
“Develop mentoring relationships at both the working-level and management-level of water resources engineers, has been my favorite part of the job. The two weeks spent in Davis, California at HEC was very beneficial in that HEC really worked on "team-building" between Federal and Provincial levels of water management as well as technical aspects, I believe this will really pay off as it strengthens some of the relationships across ministries and organizations here in Pakistan,” said Doan. “The staff at HEC was excellent at relaying technical aspects of their software, particularly Joan Klipsh for HEC-ResSim (Reservoir Simulation) and Stanford Gibson for HEC-RAS (River Analysis System - Sedimentation), as well as making their Pakistani colleagues feel comfortable and welcomed to the U.S. After the workshop, every Pakistani engineer expressed their sincere appreciation to the HEC staff for their kind hospitality,” Doan commented.
Pakistan has the largest contiguous irrigation system in the entire world. It is a complex hydraulic system comprised of: three major dams, nineteen barrages (low-head dams), twelve inter-river links, forty-five major irrigation canal command covering 60,000 square miles, and 120,000 canals delivering water to individual farms. It is a huge challenge to efficiently manage such a complex system and this is one of the reasons USACE is providing the technology USACE has successfully developed to operate their vast inventory of large dams and reservoirs to the Pakistan Government. Following the Water and Sediment Management Class at HEC, the joint USG/GOP team has begun to develop the Indus River Basin HEC-ResSim Model to give Pakistani water managers state-of-the-art tools to manage their water resources in a long-term planning mode as well as a real-time reservoir operational mode. The currently developed Provincial-Level Indus River Basin HEC-ResSim model will be used to evaluate the current on-going drought situation in Pakistan and will give Pakistan the tools to evaluate drought mitigation measures scenarios.
Additionally, as a follow-on action to previous short-term hydrologic workshops in Islamabad, the Chairman of the Federal Flood Commission has requested that USACE initiate a series of in-depth hydrologic and hydraulic modelling workshops in Islamabad for the Fall/Winter of 2018 in order to reach an even broader cross-section of Pakistani Ministerial Engineers. USACE Hydrologic Engineering Center in partnership with Omaha District will be leading these upcoming workshops.
Doan stated that team building was also important because one of the eventual goals of the program is to promote more cross-cooperation regionally with neighboring countries.
“Rivers do not respect political boundaries. If we’re going to solve some of these problems, cooperation on a regional scale is critical. This is also the views of State Department’s South and Central Asia Bureau and Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) Bureau as well. USACE works closely with these two State Department Bureaus through coordination provided by John Daley of USACE Headquarters Interagency and International Services (IIS). Thus far we’ve collaborated with researchers in both Pakistan and Afghanistan on latest modelling techniques for rainfall/snowmelt/runoff modelling for watersheds that are shared between both countries. Eventually we’d like to also see some regional cooperation with India as well as Afghanistan on shared river basins.”
Doan said the USACE support to his efforts has been critical.
“I’m really grateful to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for allowing me to do what I’m doing. To my Division loaning me out so I can do this full time to the Middle East District for all their administrative logistical and contract support and to other districts within USACE who have been able to arrange short notice site visits and provide insight and training. This is such an important mission both diplomatically and environmentally, I’m thrilled I’m allowed to be a part of it.”