Dr Najwa OBEID PITOIS (United States of America)

Najwa’s work focuses on water supply reliability planning in drought-prone Southern California, which currently relies on more than 50 percent in imported water for its water supply. She works with multiple local agencies assisting them in water supply reliability planning under uncertain future conditions. Her work also involves analysis of how integrated management of stormwater, recycled water, and groundwater can help increase local water resources reliability.

PhD in Environmental Engineering and Sciences

Current position: Water Resources Analyst at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, United States of America

Research focus: integrated water resources management, water supply portfolio modelling and planning, water resources systems analysis

During her Green Talents research stay at the Environmental Vulnerability and Ecosystem Services Section at the United Nations University in Bonn, Germany, she conducted a study that focuses on how communities perceive and understand the role of ecosystems for disaster risk reduction. She also spent a year as a Knauss Marine Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, United States of America, working on the newly launched Coastal Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability programme, the goal of which is to support interdisciplinary research on the dynamic interactions between human behaviour, physical forces, and ecological processes in the coastal zone.

2013 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship

CV as submitted for the Green Talents award (2011):

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States of America

Research focus: sustainable and integrated water resource management

Najwa Obeid worked as a water resources engineer for Parsons Brinckerhoff in Boston, MA, from 2005 to 2008. At the same time, she was volunteering for the NGO Engineers without Borders in the Dominican Republic, where she visited two water treatment plants that used slow sand filters. At one plant, the phosphorus removed from the treated water was being disposed of in a nearby river undergoing eutrophication. The same river was used downstream as a water supply.

Ms Obeid, who is of Lebanese descent, says the experience in the Dominican Republic showed her how human health and the environment were being compromised for the sake of development. It also led her to pursue a doctorate in environmental engineering and sciences with a focus on sustainable and integrated water resources management.

She is particularly interested in how storm water generated in cities alters the natural flow of a watershed, and how low-impact development practices may decrease storm water run-off volumes and flooding, as well as reduce combined sewer overflows.

More recently, she has quantified the performance of a green roof at the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois and is developing run-off hydrographs from the model so her research can be incorporated into a watershed model for the city of Chicago.

Ultimately, Ms Obeid aims to advance the use of low-impact development technologies in urban areas, including green roofs, by integrating their performance into a coupled hydrologic-economic model. She is working to quantify the financial, environmental and social benefits of green roofs in Chicago by applying economic theory to her findings; afterwards, she will adapt the model for testing the effectiveness of other low-impact development approaches.

Of particular interest to the jury was Ms Obeids focus on managing storm water and run-off water through greened roofs. It also saw promise in the hydrological model that she is creating that will help improve decision-making about low-impact development projects by making their financial, ecological and social effects more measureable and comparable.

While in Germany, Ms Obeid plans to study the countrys storm water management practices that have been put into place. It will be an invaluable experience for me to visit Germany, the leader in green roof research, technology and use, she said.