Water scarcity is a global issue, but water challenges in the Arab world are especially extreme. Jordan is the second most water-scarce country in the world and faces huge challenges in adapting to a plethora of global and region-specific issues.
Below, I share my thoughts on Jordan’s specific water challenges and consider possible solutions.
The four pillars of water security in Jordan
As the most water-scarce region in the world, the Arab region is facing huge challenges when it comes to coping with increased demands for water coupled with climate extremes — including floods and droughts. These challenges combined put huge pressure on water utilities and water institutions.
Today, the Arab region is off track in achieving almost all water-related sustainable development goals. Jordan —the second most water-scarce country in the world—has also been facing huge challenges to adapt to climate change and reduce the gap between water supply and demand.
To understand water security in Jordan, we need to look at four main pillars:
1. Drinking water and human needs
Water availability is low in Jordan and we need to diversify water resources. Although consumption is also quite low, there is a lot of waste coming from high levels of leakage in the networks due to outdated infrastructure.
There’s also a need to increase access to sanitation. When we consider water quality in the region, one of the major issues comes from the nature of the intermittent water supply which means that people in Jordan only receive water once or twice per week.
2. Climate change and water-related hazards
Jordan is hit by many climate extremes like floods and droughts. Madaba in particular was impacted by extreme floods that led to the deaths of many people, while Amman was also flooded. Increasing resilience in Jordan is a priority to prevent these incidents from occurring again.
A major problem is the state of the pollution that comes from wastewater. When we look at water and wastewater as new untapped resources that need to be relied on, we also need to consider how to treat them properly to ensure the health and safety of the public.
A huge problem in Jordan is the commercial losses from the theft of water as well as the many illegal uses of water in the region. This impacts Jordan’s water sector in terms of financial capability to meet the demand in the water sector.
Finally, another important issue is the low budget directed to the water sector. Water tariffs have to be redesigned to cover operational and maintenance costs.
What are the solutions to Jordan’s water security challenges?
When looking at viable solutions, it’s crucial to consider all four pillars of urban water security. Taking into account the measures that have already been taken in Jordan and the challenges ahead, working on wastewater reuse as an untapped resource and shifting the system from a linear system of use and disposal to a circular economy model are the best options.
We have a great example from the Samra treatment plant where they are reusing the wastewater and putting it back into the water systems. This is crucial for the water sector in order to close the gap between supply and demand.
When it comes to the high levels of non-revenue water, we need to tackle the issue of illegal water connections. This will enable us to reduce both physical and commercial losses.
Raising public awareness of water scarcity is also a tool we have to try and reduce consumption. Even though we are a water-scarce country, we are still facing challenges when it comes to the high consumption of water and food which is linked to energy security.
Overall, it’s essential to consider the four pillars and enact a cohesive policy that can tackle Jordan’s unique water security challenges.