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Water Scarcity in Jordan

Problems and Possible Solutions of Water Scarcity in Jordan

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Red Sea at Jordan

A view of Aqaba, Jordan from the Red Sea. There is a plan to pipe water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea and desalinate that water to meet the irrigation and drinking water needs of the country.

Walter Bibikow/Getty Images
Updated February 20, 2012
According to the United Nations, by the year 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries with absolute water scarcity. Water scarcity, in which the demand for water exceeds the supply, may lead to "water wars" in the future due to the growing population.

Water scarcity is also defined as when a population has annual water supplies that drop below 1,000 cubic metres per person. Currently, one in three people are affected by water scarcity. Water conflicts occur in these areas as sharing a the limited resource of water is very difficult.

There are a wide variety of causes for water scarcity in Jordan however; this article will focus specifically on human and physical causes, to gain more in-depth knowledge.

Human Factors of Jordan's Water Scarcity

In 1948 Palestinian refugees began entering Jordan and the population rapidly increased. Jordan's population continues to increase, meaning water supplies are increasingly strained. If current trends remain the same, Jordan will be in absolute water shortage by 2025. Jordan's industrialisation and urbanisation cause aquifers and polluted water to be exploited and Jordan's agricultural practices use the most water, 77.5%, heightening Jordan's water scarcity problems.

Physical Factors of Jordan's Water Scarcity

The River Jordan is extracted at a rate greater than 100% of its renewable freshwater. With Jordan's Mediterranean climate, there is a very uneven distribution of rainfall due to topography; Jordan has seasonal floods and droughts. In Jordan, 80% of precipitation is evaporated. Jordan has an arid-semi-arid climate where 80% of the country receives average precipitation of less than 100 mm/yr (Hadadin et al., 2009). The Dead Sea is significantly receding due to the above issues, at a rate of roughly one metre every year. Fayez Batayneh (Water Authority of Jordan Secretary General) suggests that the "water deficit in Jordan is caused by limited water resources and dwindling rainfall."

Solutions to Jordan's Water Scarcity

Managing Jordan's water scarcity is incredibly important but at the same time very difficult. Since the 1990s Jordan focused on three projects; rehabilitation of the East Gohr Canal, constructing King Talal dam and repairing the Yarmouk canal tunnel. However, whilst developing these projects it was obvious they were only short term solutions. Jordan's Government and civil engineers found new water sources in the past but now, very few 'low cost' options remain. Large infrastructure projects were developed, but these led to a reduction in Jordan's non-renewable sources as the projects were unsustainable. This resulted in a rationing system where Jordanians can now only collect water from certain public supplies just one to two days a week.

The 'Red Sea-Dead Sea' Water Project is a possible solution, for the replenishment of Dead Sea, would provide Jordan with drinking water for 50 years. The project wishes to transport and desalinate seawater from the Red Sea into freshwater for the Dead Sea. Fresh water could also be transported from Turkey but these 'mega-projects' are expensive and do not work immediately (Hadadin et al., 2009).

Jordan can deal with its agricultural sector by "implementing proper irrigation technologies like sprinkler systems, drip irrigation, subsurface irrigation systems and plastic green-houses [which] improve water savings during hot seasons" (Haddadin, 2006).

Overall, there are two main causes of water scarcity in Jordan; the country lacks natural surface water resources and human-causes associated with the agriculture sector. Agriculture accounts for 77.5% of all water consumed in Jordan but agriculture equated to only 3% of its GDP in 2009 (US Department of State, 2011).

Current solutions in Jordan have not worked so new sustainable policies need to be implemented. One believes policies revolving around limiting agricultural water use are the most important to first implement, rather than larger projects, like the Red Sea-Dead Sea project, as these take longer to construct and are very expensive.

References

Hadadin, N., Qaqish, M., Akawwi, E., and Bdour, A. (2009) - "Water shortage in Jordan - sustainable solutions" - Elsevier - 17th January 2009
Haddadin, M. (2006) - "Water resources in Jordan: evolving policies for development, the environment and conflict resolution"
United States Department of State (2011) - "Background note: Jordan" - Bureau of near Eastern Affairs
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