A View on the Future of Moving and Storing Water for Climate Response: A Q&A with Adel AbouJaoude

Our new global solutions director discusses the critical role of conveyance and storage in the OneWater cycle and explains why data solutions are at the top of his agenda.

Q&A with Adel AbouJaoude Jacobs Conveyance & Storage Global Solutions Director

Moving and storing water is essential across the entire water cycle. From drinking water supply to wastewater collection and wet weather management, conveyance and storage solutions like pipelines and tunnels are integral to our OneWater approach at Jacobs.

These solutions are also critical as communities across the world respond to the impacts of climate change and must manage too much, or too little, water. The ability to efficiently distribute limited water supplies, safely capture urban flood waters, or store water for future use has never been more important.

In this Q&A, we connect with our new Conveyance & Storage Global Solutions Director, Dr. Adel AbouJaoude. Based in the Middle East and with over 30 years of civil engineering experience, Adel joined Jacobs in 2019 and was recently appointed to oversee our global team of technical experts focused on water conveyance and storage solutions. Adel shares his vision for water conveyance and storage as a solution to the impacts of climate change – including the important role of data and digital tools in optimizing the design, delivery and operations of these assets.  

Hi Adel, can you tell us about how your work is delivering bold solutions for our clients?

My role as global solutions director for conveyance and storage ties in to all three of Jacobs’ strategic accelerators: Climate Response, Data Solutions and Consulting & Advisory. Digital delivery and optimization are currently at the top of my agenda and we already have a number of tools under development for the optimization of our delivery methods. I’ve been working with our fantastic team on digital twins and automation to optimize our projects over their life cycle: from the optimization of the concept design to digital twin delivery during construction and then operations and maintenance. I’ve also had the opportunity to lead our water infrastructure work with NEOM in Saudi Arabia, and they’re highly receptive to these data solutions.

In parallel, I’m engaged with our strategic consulting team who are supporting our clients in the Middle East with the implementation of public-private partnerships for water conveyance and storage projects – and our conveyance experts are also actively engaged in providing the technical support for these programs.

How important are water conveyance and storage solutions as communities respond to the impacts of climate change?

Water is life – and unfortunately, due to the impacts of climate change, water scarcity is becoming a key concern around the globe. In the Middle East in particular, desalination, conveyance and storage are key components of water supply systems already. With the expanding water scarcity we’re witnessing across the world – in Europe, India, South Africa, Australia, North America – I foresee this model being exported in the near future, with more major water conveyance systems delivering water to communities located even hundreds of miles away from the seashore. We’re also seeing the development of large-scale water conveyance schemes to move recycled water between communities in regions like southern California. Storage goes hand-in-hand with conveyance as it provides added resilience to these complex water supply systems.

In what ways are we incorporating data solutions into these projects?

In each and every project, we walk the extra mile to find “outside-the-box” solutions that result in improved lifecycle costs, resilience, health and safety, and so on. And our Digital OneWater solutions are now central to this.

It starts from the concept design, where we apply different methods to optimize our design options. Our armada of tools spans from simple spreadsheet models for life cycle cost assessment coupled to a library of costing tools, to elaborate in-house tools like our Replica simulation and digital twin suite, our route selection and optimization tool Route Scout, or off-the-shelf tools that evaluate hundreds of design options and select the optimal solution.

Automated design allows us to streamline the design process and interface different tools to talk to each other, assisting with the design of different elements of the conveyance project or automating the production of drawings or 3D models. During the construction process, the design models are converted to commissioning tools, and then at a later stage used as an asset management tool, including for energy optimization. For example, we’re developing a lifecycle digital solution for a mega water conveyance project in the Middle East, using a 3D model and smart tools to develop design, monitor construction progress and then manage the asset. 

You’ve spent over 30 years working on major water engineering and infrastructure programs and applied research. Is there an achievement you’re most proud of?

It’s difficult to choose one single project as I’ve had the opportunity to work on many very challenging projects over my career. It’s almost like asking which of your children you prefer most! I would say that the projects I worked on during my early career have shaped my personality. At the age of 26, I worked on the deep storage of radioactive wastes, which was a very complex subject. I came up with the concept of the HydrauFaraday® cage, which is a simple translation of a concept from one discipline into another.

Though very different in nature, another project was the dewatering of the Shashma hydropower plant excavation in Pakistan. I was 29, I was working for a major French engineering firm, and I had the tremendous responsibility of sizing the dewatering system of a large excavation for a contractor in just a couple of weeks, running a 3D groundwater modeling tool that I’d primarily developed. The software was state-of-the-art in the early 1990s, with practically no alternative tool available, and I had to conduct the calculations for the engineer/client side, and help the contractor develop their calculations using the same software and numerical model. I was the “judge and the defendant”, where the financial implications were enormous. Just thinking about the situation brings back the stress in my stomach. When the project was constructed, if I’m not mistaken, it was the world record in dewatering flow – the reality matching almost perfectly with the calculated flow. These projects, where I have to bear the full responsibility of the design and the consequences, are the ones that really boost the adrenaline in my veins!

“The key words remain the same for the concept of any water supply system: reliability, resilience, redundancy, sustainability, life cycle costs. The art of engineering is finding the correct balance between these priorities.”

Adel AbouJaoude

Dr. Adel AbouJaoude

Jacobs Conveyance & Storage Global Solutions Director

What do you like most about being part of #OurJacobs?

I’ve been in different work environments throughout my career, and for me Jacobs is by far the best workplace I have had because we simply “walk the talk”. The ethics of our leaders are cascaded down: I’m regularly invited to conversations with senior leaders and the key topics are inclusion & diversity, ethics, trust and transparency.

What advice would you give to young professionals? 

If I have to give just one single piece of advice to young engineers, I would tell them in the first five years of your career, find a good mentor and work with them to deepen your technical knowledge, even if you want to move in a different career path. The technical foundation is like the body building in any sports activity.

If you aren’t working, what are we most likely to find you doing?

I’m a handyman, I like all sorts of handcrafting, painting, sports and spending time with my family. I would say that my garden takes the largest share of my time after my family. I enjoy taking care of my lawn and flowers.   

About the interviewee

Adel AbouJaoude

Dr. Adel AbouJaoude is a highly accomplished civil engineer with over 30 years of experience in the industry. He’s worked on a wide range of projects, from dams to water supply and conveyance systems, and is a recognized expert in developing innovative solutions to complex engineering challenges. Besides water conveyance, Dr. AbouJaoude's areas of expertise include water resources engineering, hydraulic engineering, and geotechnical engineering. Trilingual in English, French and Arabic, his work has spanned across the globe, from Europe to the Middle East, and Central Asia. He is committed to developing sustainable and resilient engineering solutions that meet the needs of today while providing a foundation for a more sustainable future.

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